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BL 41 .A53 V.2 

American lectures on the 
history of religions 

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I. Buddhism. — The History and Literature of Bud- 
dhism. By T. W. Rhys-Davids, LL.D., Ph.D. 

II. Primitive Religions. — The Religions of Primitive 
Peoples. By D. G. Brinton, A.M., M.D., LL.D.,Sc.D., 
Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics in the University 
of Pennsylvania. 

III. Israel. — Jewish Religious Life After the Exile. 
By the Rev. T. K. Cheyne, M.A., D.D., Oriel Pro- 
fessor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scriptures in the 
University of Oxford, and formerly Fellow of Balliol 
College ; Canon of Rochester. 

IV. Israel. — Religious Life and Thought among the 
Hebrews in Pre-Exilic Days. By Professor Karl Budde, 
of Strasburg, Germany (1899). 





SECOND SERIES-1896-1897 





Professor of American Archaeology and Linguistics in the 
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 





'Vi^t ^nitlurbotlur ^prcss 

Copyright, 1897 


Entered at Stationers' Hall, London 

Vbe 1tn(clierboclter pceee, Dew KotR 


ON the 24th of December, 1891, fifteen persons 
interested in promoting the historical study 
of religions united in issuing a circular-letter, inviting 
a conference in the Council Chambers of the Histori- 
cal Society of Philadelphia, on the 30th of the same 
month, for the purpose of instituting " popular 
courses in the History of Religions, somewhat after 
the style of the Hibbert lectures in England, to be 
delivered annually by the best scholars of Europe 
and this country, in various cities, such as Baltimore, 
Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, 
and others." There participated in this conference 
personally or by letter from Philadelphia, Rev. Prof. 
E. T. Bartlett, D.D., Rev. George Dana Boardman, 
D.D., Prof. D. G. Brinton, M.D., Sc.D., Horace How- 
ard Furness, LL.D., Prof. E. J. James, Ph.D., Prof. 
Morris Jastrow, Jr., Ph.D., Provost Wm. Pepper, 
M.D., LL.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, 
Hon. Mayer Sulzberger, Mrs. Cornelius Stevenson, 
and Talcott Williams, LL.D. ; from Baltimore, Prest. 
D. C. Gilman, LL.D., of the Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity, and Prof. Paul Haupt, Ph.D. ; from Boston 

iv Announcement 

and Cambridge, Rev. E. E. Hale, D.D., Prof. C. R. 
Lanman, Ph.D., Prof. D. G. Lyon, Ph.D., and Prof. 
C. H. Toy, LL.D. ; from Brooklyn, Rev. Edward S. 
BraisHn, D.D., and Prof. Franklin W. Hooper of 
the Brooklyn Institute ; from Chicago, Prest. W. R. 
Harper, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, and 
Rev. Prof. Emil G. Hirsch, Ph.D. ; from New York, 
Rev. Prof. C. A. Briggs, D.D., LL.D., Rev. Prof. 
Francis Brown, D.D., Rev. G. Gottheil, D.D., Prof. 
R. J. H. Gottheil, Ph.D., Rev. John P. Peters, Ph.D., 
and Rev. W. Hayes Ward, D.D., LL.D. ; from Ithaca, 
N. Y., Prest. J. G. Schurman of Cornell University, 
and Hon. Andrew D. White, LL.D. 

At this conference Prof. Jastrow submitted a plan 
for establishing popular lecture courses on the his- 
torical study of religions by securing the co-opera- 
tion of existing institutions and lecture associations, 
such as the Lowell, Brooklyn, and Peabody Insti- 
tutes, the University Lecture Association of Phila- 
delphia, and some of our colleges and universities. 
Each course, according to this plan, was to consist of 
from six to eight lectures, and the engagement of 
lecturers, choice of subjects, and so forth were to be 
in the hands of a committee chosen from the dilTer- 
ent cities, and representing the various institutions 
and associations participating. This general scheme 
met with the cordial approval of the conference, 

Announcement v 

which voted the project both a timely and useful 
one, and which appointed Dean Bartlett, Prof. Jas- 
trow, and Dr. Peters a committee to elaborate a plan 
of organisation and report at an adjourned meeting. 
That meeting was held at the Union Theological 
Seminary in New York City, February 6, 1892, and, 
as a result, an association was organised for the pur- 
pose of encouraging the study of religions. The 
terms of association then adopted, with slight modi- 
fications introduced later, are as follows : 
I. — The object of this Association shall be to pro- 
vide courses of lectures on the history of re- 
ligions, to be delivered in various cities. 
2. — The Association shall be composed of delegates 
from institutions agreeing to co-operate, or 
from local boards, organised where such co- 
operation is not possible. 
3. — These Delegates — one from each Institution or 
Local Board — shall constitute themselves a 
council under the name of the " American 
Committee for Lectures on the History of 
4. — The Council shall elect out of its number a 

President, a Secretary, and a Treasurer. 
5. — All matters of local detail shall be left to the 
Institutions or Local Boards, under whose 
auspices the lectures are to be delivered. 

VI Announcement 

6. — A course of lectures on some religion, or phase 
of religion, from an historical point of view, 
or on a subject germane to the study of re- 
ligions, shall be delivered annually, or at such 
intervals as may be found practicable, in the 
different cities represented by this Associa- 

7. — The Council {a) shall be charged with the selec- 
tion of the lecturers, {b) shall have charge of 
the funds, (<:) shall assign the time for the lec- 
tures in each city, and perform such other 
functions as may be necessary. 

8. — Polemical subjects, as well as polemics in the 
treatment of subjects, shall be positively ex- 

9. — The lecturer shall be chosen by the Council at 
least ten months before the date fixed for the 
course of lectures. 

10. — The lectures shall be delivered in the various 
cities between the months of October and 

ir. — The copyright of the lectures shall be the 
property of the Association. 

12. — One half of the lecturer's compensation shall 
be paid at the completion of this entire course, 
and the second half upon the publication of 
the lectures. 

Announcement vll 

13. — The compensation offered to the lecturer shall 

be fixed in each case by the Council. 
14. — The lecturer is not to deliver elsewhere any of 
the lectures for which he is engaged by the 
Committee, except with the sanction of the 

The Committee appointed to carry out this plan 
as now constituted, is as follows: 

Prof. C. H. Toy, of Harvard University, Chairman. 

Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr., of the University of 
Pennsylvania, Secretary. 

Rev. John P. Peters, D. D., of New York, Treas- 

Prof. Richard J. H. Gottheil, of Columbia Uni- 

Prof. Paul Haupt, of the Johns Hopkins Uni- 

Prof. F. W. Hooper, of the Brooklyn Institute. 

Prof. J. F. Jameson, of Brown University. 

Prof. F. K. Sanders, of Yale University. 

President J. G. Schurman, of Cornell University. 

For its first course the Committee selected as 
lecturer Prof. T. W. Rhys Davids, Ph.D. LL.D., 
of London, England, who delivered a course of 
lectures in the winter of 1894-95 on The History 
and Literature of Buddhism, at the following places, 
with the co-operation of the institutions named : 

viii Announcement 

Baltimore, before the Johns Hopkins University. 

Boston, at the Lowell Institute. 

Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Institute. 

Ithaca, before the Cornell University. 

New York, before the Columbia University. 

Philadelphia, before the University of Pennsyl- 
vania Lecture Association. 

Providence, before the Brown University Lecture 

Professor Davids' lectures were published in 1896 
by arrangement with Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 
the publishers to the Committee, as the First Series 
of The American Lectures on the History of Re- 
ligions. As the second lecturer, the Committee 
chose Prof. Daniel G. Brinton, A.M., M.D., LL.D., 
Sc.D., of Philadelphia ; and as the subject, " The 
Religions of Primitive Peoples." Dr. Brinton, who 
holds the chair of American Archaeology and Lin- 
guistics in the University of Pennsylvania, is a lead- 
ing authority on the languages and customs of the 
American Indians, and on Anthropology in general. 
His studies have led him also into the domain of Pre- 
historic Archaeology and Comparative Mythology. 
As the product of his investigations in the latter 
field, he pubHshed as early as 1868, The Myths of 
The New World, which at once attracted the atten- 
tion of scholars, and has passed through several 

Announcement Ix 

editions since. In 1876 he issued an important 
contribution to the Science of Religion, under the 
title, The Religious Sentiment. In addition to this 
he has published a large number of works on 
American Languages on Anthropology, and Ar- 
chaeology, the most notable of which is the series 
Library of Aboriginal American Literature. His 
papers, scattered in various scientific periodicals of 
this country and Europe, number several hundred. 

The lectures delivered by him under the auspices 
of the Committee represent the ripe fruit of many 
years of study, and will, we feel assured, be wel- 
comed as an important contribution to a subject 
now attracting much attention. 

The lectures were delivered during the winter of 
1896-97, at the following places : 

Boston, (Lowell Institute). 

Brooklyn, (Brooklyn Institute). 

Ithaca, (Cornell University). 

New Haven, (Yale University). 

New York, (New York University). 

Philadelphia, (University of Pennsylvania). 

Providence, (Brown University Lecture Associ- 
The object of this Association is to provide the 
best opportunities for bringing to the knowledge 
of the public at large the methods and results of 

X Announcement 

those distinguished specialists who have devoted 
their lives to the study of the religions of other 
countries and other ages. It is safe to say that 
there is no other subject of modern research which 
concerns all classes so nearly as the study of re- 
ligions. It is the hope of the Committee to provide 
courses at intervals of two years, or oftener, if the 
encouragement which the undertaking receives war- 
rants it, and the practical difficulties involved in 
securing competent lecturers do not make it impos- 

Arrangements have been made for a course of 
lectures during the winter of 1897-98, by the Rev. 
T. K. Cheyne, M.A., D.D., Professor of Old Testa- 
ment Interpretation at Oriel College, Oxford, and 
Canon of Rochester ; whose subject will be Re- 
ligious Thought and Life among the Hebrews in 
Post-Exilic Days, to be followed in 1898-99 by a com- 
plementary course on Religious Life and Thought 
among the Hebrews in Pre-Exilic Days, by Pro- 
fessor Karl Budde, of the University of Strasburg, 

May JO, rSgy. 

John P. Peters, 


C. H. Toy, 


Morris Jastrow, Jr., 





Ethnology Defined — The Scientific Study of Religions — It is 
not Theology— Its Methods : i. The Historic Method ; 
2. The Comparative Method ; 3. The Psychologic Method 
— Strange Coincidences in Human Thought — Conspicuous 
in Primitive Religions — "Primitive" Peoples Defined — 
The SavageMind— Examples— Means of Study: i. Archae- 
ology ; 2. Language : 3. Folk-Lore ; 4. Descriptions of 
Travellers — Examples : The Early Aryans, Etruscans, 
Semites, Egyptians, American Tribes, Australians, Poly- 
nesians, etc. — "Religions" Defined — Compared with 
" Superstitions " — No One Belief Essential to Religion — 
Atheistic Religions — Fundamental Identity of Religions — 
No Tribe Known Devoid of a Religion — How the Opposite 
Opinion Arose — Earliest Men probably had No Religion 
— No Signs of Religion in Lower Animals — Power of 
Religion in Primitive Society — True Source of Religion . i 


Former Theories of the Origin of Religions — Inadequacy of these 
— Universal Postulate of Religions that Conscious Volition 
is the Source of Force — How Mind was Assigned to Nature 
— Communion between the Human and the Divine Mind — 
Universality of " Inspiration" — Inspiration the Product of 
the Sub-Conscious Mind — Known to Science as " Sugges- 

xii Contents 

tion" — This Explained — Examples — Illustrations from 
Language — No Primitive Monotheism — The Special Stimuli 
of the Religious Emotions : i. Dreaming and Allied Con- 
ditions — Life as a Dream — 2. The Apprehension of Life 
and Death and the Notion of the Soul — 3. The Perception 
of Light and Darkness ; Day and Night — The Sky God as 
the High God — 4. The Observation of Extraordinary Ex- 
hibitions of Force — The Thunder God — 5. The Impression 
of Vastness — Dignity of the Sub-Conscious Intelligence . 41 


An Echo Myth — The Power of Words — Their Magical Potency 
— The Curse — Power Independent of Meaning— The Name 
as an Attribute — The Sacred Names — The Ineffable Name 
— " Myrionomous " Gods — " Theophorous " Names — Sug- 
gestion and Repetition as Stimulants — I. The Word to the 
gods: Prayer — Its Forms, Contents, and Aims — II. The 
Word from the gods : The Law and the Prophecy — The 
Ceremonial Law, or tabu — Examples — Divination and Pre- 
diction — III. The Word concerning the gods : The Myths 
— Their Sources chiefly Psychic — Some from Language — 
Examples — Transference — Similarities — The Universal 
Mythical Cycles : i. The Cosmical Concepts ; 2. The 
Sacred Numbers ; 3. The Drama of the Universe ; Creation 
and Deluge Myths ; 4. The Earthly Paradise ; 5. The 
Conflict of Nature ; 6. The Returning Saviour ; 7. The 
Journey of the Soul — Conclusion as to these Identities . 86 


Visual Ideas — Fetishism — Not Object-Worship only — Identical 
with Idolatry — Modern Fetishism — Animism — Not a Sta- 
dium of Religion — The Chief Groups of Religious Ob- 
jects : I. The Celestial Podies — Sun and Moon Worship 
— Astrolatry ; 2. The Four Elements — Fire, Air (the Winds), 

Contents xlii 


Water, and the Earth — Symbolism of Colours ; 3. Stones 
and Rocks — Thunderbolts — Memorial Stones — Divining 
Stones; 4. Trees and Plants— The Tree of Life— The 
Sacred Pole and the Cross — The Plant-Soul — The Tree 
of Knowledge ; 5. Places and Sites — High Places and 
Caves ; 6. The Lower Animals — The Bird, the Serpent, 
etc. ; 7. Man — Anthropism in Religion — The Worship of 
Beauty; 8. Life and its Transmission — Examples — Genesiac 
Cults — The Fatherhood of God — Love as Religion's 
Crown .......... 130 


The Ritual a Mimicry of the Gods — Magical Rites — Division 
of Rites into I. Communal, and II. Personal. I. Com- 
munal Rites : i. The Assemblage — The Liturgy — 2. The 
Festal Function — Joyous Character of Primitive Rites — 
Commensality — The ' ' Ceremonial Circuit " — Masks and 
Dramas — 3. The Sacrifice — Early and Later Forms — 4. The 
Communion with God — Pagan Eucharists. II. Personal 
Rites : i. Relating to Birth — Vo-.vs and Baptism — 2. Relat- 
ing to Naming — The Personal Nam.e — 3. Relating to 
Puberty — Initiation of Boys and Girls — 4. Relating to Mar- 
riage — Marriage "by Capture" and "by Purchase" — 5. 
Relating to Death — Early Cannibalism — Sepulchral Monu- 
ments — Funerary Ceremonies — Modes of Burial — Customs 
of Mourning ......... 172 


Pagan Religions not wholly Bad — Their Lines of Development 
as Connected with: I. The Primitive Social Bond — The 
Totem, the Priesthood, and the Law ; 2, The Family and 
the Position of Woman ; 3. The Growth of Jurisprudence 
—The Ordeal, Trial by Battle, Oaths, and the Right of 
Sanctuary — Religion is Anarchic ; 4. The Development of 

xiv Contents 


Ethics — Dualism of Primitive Ethics — Opposition of Re- 
ligion to Ethics ; 5. The Advance in Positive Knowledge — 
Religion versus Science ; 6. The Fostering of the Arts — 
The Aim for Beauty and Perfection — Colour-Symbolism, 
Sculpture, Metre, Music, Oratory, Graphic Methods — Use- 
ful Arts, Architecture ; 7. The Independent Life of the 
Individual — His Freedom and Happiness — Inner Stadia of 
Progress : i. From the Object to the Symbol ; 2. From the 
Ceremonial Law to the Personal Ideal ; 3. From the Tribal 
to the National Conception of Religion — Conclusion , .214 




The Scientific Study of Primitive Religions — 
Methods and Definitions. 

Contents : — Ethnology Defined — The Scientific Study of Religions 
—It is not Theology— Its Methods : i. The Historic Method ; 
2. The Comparative Method ; 3. The Psychologic Method — 
Strange Coincidences in Human Thought — Conspicuous in 
Primitive Religions — " Primitive" Peoples Defined — The Sav- 
age Mind — Examples — Means of Study: i. Archaeology; 2. 
Language : 3. Folk-Lore ; 4. Descriptions of Travellers — Ex- 
amples : The Early Aryans, Etruscans, Semites, Egyptians, 
American Tribes, Australians, Polynesians, etc. — "Religions" 
Defined — Compared with " Superstitions" — No One Belief Es- 
sential to Religion — Atheistic Religions — Fundamental Identity 
of Religions — No Tribe Known Devoid of a Religion — How 
the Opposite Opinion Arose — Earliest Men probably had No 
Religion — No Signs of Religion in Lower Animals — Power of 
Religion in Primitive Society — True Source of Religion. 

THE youngest in the sisterhood of the sciences 
is that which deals with Man. In its widest 
scope it is called Anthropology, and as such includes 

2 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

both the physical and mental life of the species, 
from the beginning until now. That branch of it 
which especially concerns itself with the develop- 
ment of man as indicated by his advance in civili- 
sation, is known as Ethnology. 

When we analyse the directive forces which have 
brought about this advance, and whose study there- 
fore makes up Ethnology, they can be reduced to 
four, to wit, Language, Laws, Arts, and Religion. 
Do not imagine, however, that these are separable, 
independent forces. On the contrary, they are in- 
separable, constituent elements of an organic unity, 
each working through the others, and on the sym- 
metrical adjustment of all of them to the needs of a 
community depend its prosperity and growth. No 
one of them can be omitted or exaggerated without 
stunting or distorting the national expansion. This 
lesson, taught by all ages and confirmed by every 
example, warns us to be cautious in giving preced- 
ence to one over the others in any general scheme ; 
but we can profitably separate one from the others, 
and study its origins and influence. 

On this occasion I invite your attention to Re- 
ligion, and especially as displayed in its earliest and 
simplest forms, in the faiths and rites of primitive 
peoples. I shall present these to you in accordance 
with the principles and methods of Ethnology. 

Study of Primitive Religions 

There is what has been called the " science of re- 
ligion." The expression seems to me a little pre- 
sumptuous — or, at least, premature. We do not yet 
speak of a " science of jurisprudence," although we 
have better materials for it than for a science of 
religion. I shall content myself, therefore, in calling 
what I have to offer a study of early religions ac- 
cording to scientific methods. 

I need not remind you that such a method is ab- 
solutely without bias or partisanship ; that it looks 
upon all religions alike as more or less enlightened 
expressions of mental traits common to all mankind 
in every known age.* It concedes the exclusive pos- 
session of truth to none, and still less does it aim to 
set up any other standard than past experience by 
which to measure the claims of any. It brings no 
new canons of faith or doctrine, and lays no other 
foundation than that which has been laid even from 
the beginning until now. 

But just there its immediate utility and practical 

bearings are manifested. It seeks to lay bare those 

eternal foundations on which the sacred edifices of 

religion have ever been and must ever be erected. 

It aims to accomplish this by clearing away the incid- 

* " Religion," observes Professor Toy, " must be treated as a pro- 
duct of human thought, as a branch of Sociology, subject to all the 
laws that control general human progress." — Judaism and Chris- 
tianity, p. I. 

4 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

ental and adventitious in religions so as to discover 
what in them is permanent and universal. Those 
sacred ideas and institutions which we find repeated 
among all the early peoples of the earth, often de- 
veloping in after ages along parallel lines, will form 
the special objects of our investigation. The depart- 
ures from these universal forms, we shall see, can be 
traced to local or temporary causes, they turn on 
questions of environment, and serve merely to de- 
fine the limits of variability of the ubiquitous princi- 
ples of religion as a psychic phenomenon, wherever 
we find it. 

This is not " theology." That branch of learning 
aims to measure the objective reality, the concrete 
truth, of some one or another opinion concerning 
God and divine things ; while the scientific study 
of religions confines itself exclusively to examining 
such opinions as phases of human mental activity, 
and ascertaining what influence they have exerted 
on the development of the species or of some branch 
of it. Therefore it is never " polemic." It neither 
attacks nor defends the beliefs which it studies. It 
confines itself to examining their character and influ- 
ence by the lights of reason and history. 

The methods which we employ in this process of 
reduction are three in number: i. The Historic 
Method ; 2. The Comparative Method ; 3. The 

Study of Primitive Religions 

Psychologic Method. A few words will explain 
the scope of each of these. 

The Historic Method studies the history of beliefs 
and the development of worship. It seeks to dis- 
cover what influences have been exerted on them by 
environment, transmission, heredity, and conquest, 
and to bring into full relief what is peculiar to the 
tribe or group under consideration, and what is ex- 
otic. For in one sense it is true that every nation 
and tribe, even every man, has his own religion. 

Such ethnic traits merit the closest scrutiny. They 
are so marked and constant as to modify profoundly 
the history of even the ripest religions. It is quite 
true, as has been observed by an historian of Christ- 
ianity, that " there is in every people an hereditary 
disposition to some particular heresy," * that is, to 
altering any religion which they accept in accordance 
with the special constitution of their own minds. 

The Comparative Method notes the similarities 
and differences between the religions of different 
tribes or groups, and, gradually extending its field to 
embrace the whole species, endeavors, by excluding 
what is local or temporal, to define those forms of 
religious thought and expression which are common 
to humanity at large. 

* Rev. John M. Neale, History of the Holy Eastern Church, vol. 
i., p. 37. 

Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The Psychologic Method takes the results of both 
the previous methods and aims to explain them by 
referring the local manifestations to the special 
mental traits of the tribe or group, and the uni- 
versal features to equally universal characteristics 
of the human mind. 

The last, the Psychologic Method, is the crown 
and completion of the quest ; for every advanced 
student of religion will subscribe to the declaration 
of Professor Granger, that " all mythology and all 
history of beliefs must finally turn to psychology 
for their satisfactory elucidation." * In other words, 
the laws of human thought can alone explain its own 

And here I must mention a startling discovery, the 
most startling, it seems to me, of recent times. It is 
that these laws of human thought are frightfully 
rigid, are indeed automatic and inflexible. The hu- 
man mind seems to be a machine ; give it the same 
materials, and it will infallibly grind out the same 
product. So deeply impressed by this is an eminent 
modern writer that he laws it down as " a funda- 
mental maxim of ethnology " that, " we do not think ; 
thinking merely goes on within us." f 

* Granger, The Worship of the Romans, p. vii. 
f A, II. Post, Grundriss der elhnologischen Jurisprudenz, Bd. i., 
s. 4- 

Study of Primitive Religions 7 

These strange coincidences find their explanation 
in experimental psychology. This science, in its 
modern developments, establishes the fact that the 
origin of ideas is due to impressions on the nerves 
of sense. The five senses give rise to five classes of 
ideas, the most numerous of which are those from 
the sense of sight, visual ideas, and those from the 
sense of hearing, auditory ideas. The former yield 
the conceptions of space, motion, and lustre (colour, 
brightness, etc.), the latter that of time. From the 
sense of touch arise the " tactual " impressions, 
which yield the ideas of power and might, through 
the sensations of resistance and pressure, pleasure 
and pain. From these primary ideas (or percept- 
ions), drawn directly from impressions, are derived 
secondary, abstract, and general ideas (apperceptions) 
by comparison and association (the laws of Identity, 
Diversity, and Similarity). 

Under ordinary conditions of human life there are 
many more impressions on the senses which are 
everywhere the same or similar, than the reverse. 
Hence, the ideas, both primary and secondary (per- 
ceptions and apperceptions), drawn from them are 
much more likely to resemble than to differ. 

The consequence of this is that the same laws of 
growth which develop the physical man everywhere 
into the traits of the species, act also on his psychi- 

8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

cal powers, and not less absolutely, to bring their 
products into conformity. 

This is true not only of his logical faculties, but of 
his lightest fancies and wildest vagaries. " Man's 
imagination," observes Mr. Hartland, " like every 
other known power, works by fixed laws, the exist- 
ence and operation of which it is possible to trace ; 
and it works upon the same material, — the external 
universe, the mental and moral constitution of man, 
and his social relations." * 

In reference to my particular subject. Professor 
Buchmann expressed some years ago what I believe 
to be the correct result of modern research in these 
words : " It is easy to prove that the striking simi- 
larity in primitive religious ideas comes not from 
tradition nor from the relationship or historic connect- 
ions of early peoples, but from the identity in the 
mental construction of the individual man, wherever 
he is found." f 

We can scarcely escape a painful shock to discover 
that we are bound by such adamantine chains. As 
the primitive man could not conceive that inflexible 
mechanical laws control the processes of nature, so 
are we slow to acknowledge that others, not less 
rigid, rule our thoughts and fancies. 

* The Science of Fairy Tales, p. 2. 

\ Zeitschrift fiir Volkerpsychologie, Bd. xi., s. 124. 

Study of Primitive Religions 

Nowhere, however, is the truth of it more clearly 
demonstrated than in primitive religions. Without 
a full appreciation of this fact, it is impossible to 
comprehend them ; and for the lack of it, much that 
has been written upon them is worthless. The as- 
tonishing similarity, the absolute identities, which 
constantly present themselves in myths and cults 
separated by oceans and continents, have been con- 
strued as evidence of common descent or of distant 
transmission ; whereas they are the proofs of a funda- 
mental unity of the human mind and of its pro- 
cesses, *' before which," as a German writer says, " the 
differences in individual, national, or even racial 
divisions sink into insignificance." * Wherever we 
turn, in time or in space, to the earliest and simplest 
religions of the world, we find them dealing with 
nearly the same objective facts in nearly the same 
subjective fashion, the differences being due to local 
and temporal causes. 

This cardinal and basic truth of the unity of ac- 
tion of man's intelligence, which is established just 
as much for the arts, the laws, and the institutions 
of men as for their religions, enables me to present 
to you broadly the faiths of primitive peoples as one 

* J. J. Honegger, Allgemeine Cttlturgeschickte, Bd. i., s. 332, 
"Similar conceptions," obsen'cs Professor Bastian, "repeat them- 
selves, under fixed laws, in localities wide apart, in ages far remote." 
— Gruttdziige der Ethnologie^ p. 73. 

lo Religions of Primitive Peoples 

coherent whole, the product of a common humanity, 
a mirror reflecting the deepest thoughts of the whole 
species on the mighty questions of religious life and 
hope, not the isolated or borrowed opinions of one 
or another tribe or people. 

Of course, the recognition of this principle does 
not diminish the attention to be paid to the ethnic 
or local developments of culture and to the borrow- 
ing or transference of myths and rites. Wherever 
this can be shown to have occurred, it is an adequate 
explanation of identities ; but in tribes geographic- 
ally remote, the presumption is that such itlcntities 
are due to the common element of humanity in 
the species. 

Such similarities are by no means confined to the 
primitive forms of religion ; but in them they are 
more obvious, and their causes are more apparent ; 
so for that reason, a study of such primitive forms is 
peculiarly remunerative to one who would acquaint 
himself with the elements of religion in general. No 
one, in fact, can pretend to a thorough knowledge 
of the great historic religions of the world who has 
not traced their outlines back to the humble faiths 
of early tribes from which they emerged. 

He must have recourse to them for like reasons 
that the biologist, who wcnild learn the morphology 
of a mammal, betakes himself to the stud}' of the 

Study of Primitive Religions ii 

cells and fibres of the simplest living organisms; for 
in their uncomplicated forms he can discover the 
basic activities which animate the highest structures. 

I must define, however, more closely what ethno- 
logists mean by " primitive peoples " ; because the 
word is not used in the sense of " first " or " earli- 
est," as its derivation would indicate. We know 
little, if anything, about the earliest men, and their 
religion would make a short chapter. " Primitive " 
to the ethnologist means the earliest of a given race 
or tribe of whom he has trusty information. It has 
reference to a stage of culture, rather than to time. 
Peoples who are in a savage or barbarous condition, 
with slight knowledge of the arts, lax governments, 
and feeble institutions, are spoken of as " primitive," 
although they may be our contemporaries. They 
are very far from being the earliest men or resem- 
bling them. Hundreds of generations have toiled 
to produce even their low stage of culture up through 
others, far inferior, of which we can form some idea 
by the aid of language and prehistoric archaeology. 

They are therefore not degenerates, ruins fallen 
from some former high estate, some condition of 
pristine nobility. That is an ancient error, now, I 
hope, exploded and dismissed from sane teaching. 
Even the rudest of savages is a creation of steady, 
long-continued advancement from the primeval man. 

12 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

We have the evidence of what he was, in his imple- 
ments and weapons preserved in pre-glacial strata 
and in the mud-floors of the caves he inhabited. 

These announce to us a law of progressive ad- 
vancement for all races, over all the earth, on the 
same Hnes of progress, toward the same goals of 
culture, extremely slow at the outset, and unequal 
especially in later ages, but vindicating the unity of 
the species and the identity of its hopes and aims 

You will understand, therefore, that by " primi- 
tive peoples," I mean savage or barbarous tribes, 
wherever they are or have been, and that I claim 
for them brotherhood with ourselves in all the traits 
that go to make up oneness of species. A few hun- 
dred years ago the ancestors of the English-speaking 
nations were as savage as the savagest, without tem- 
ples to their gods, in perpetual and bloody war, 
untamed cannibals ; add a few thousand years to 
the perspective, and man over the whole globe was 
in the same condition. 

The savage state was the childhood of the race, 
and by some the mind of the savage has been 
likened to that of the child. But the resemblance 
is merely superficial. It rather resembles that of 
the uncultivated and ignorant adult among our- 
selves. The same inaccurate observation and illogi- 

Study of Primitive Religions 13 

cal modes of thought characterise both. These 
depend on certain mental traits, which it is well to 
define, because they explain most of the absurdities 
of primitive religions. 

The first is, that the idea is accepted as true, with- 
out the process of logical reasoning or inductive ob- 
servation. In other words, what appears true to the 
individual is accepted by him as true, without fur- 
ther question. His dreams seem real to him ; there- 
fore they are real. What the tribe believes, he 
believes, no matter what his senses tell him. 

When an Australian Black is on a journey and 
fears being overtaken by the night, he will place a 
lump of clay in the forks of a tree, believing that 
thus he can arrest the motion of the sun and pro- 
long the day. It is not a religious act, but a piece 
of natural science current in the tribe, which no ex- 
perience will refute in their minds.* 

Just such a notion recurs among the Mandan In- 
dians. Captain Clark observed near their villages 
upright poles fifteen or twenty feet long with bun- 
dles of female clothing tied to them. He asked 
what they signified, and one of the old men ex- 
plained thus : " If you watch the sun closely, you 
will see that he stops for a short time just as he 
rises, and again at midday, and as he sets. The 

* E. M. Curr, The Australian Race, vol. i., p. 50. 

14 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

reason is that he rests a few moments to smoke in 
the lodges of three immortal women, and we offer 
them this clothing that they may be induced to say 
a kind word to him in our behalf. We were told by 
our ancestors not to forget this." ^ The fact that 
the orb does not stop was of no consequence in the 
face of this tradition. 

The second trait is the extreme nervous suscepti- 
bility of savages. It is much higher than ours, al- 
though the contrary is often taught. Their emotions 
or feelings control their reasoning powers, and direct 
their actions. Neurotic diseases, especially of a con- 
tagious character, are very frequent among them, 
and they are far more prone than ourselves to yield 
to impressions upon their sensory organs. The trav- 
eller Castren relates that a sudden blow on the out- 
side of a tent of the Samoyeds will sometimes throw 
the occupants into spasms ; and the missionary Liv- 
ingstone draws a touching picture of young slaves 
dying of " a broken heart," when they heard the 
song and music of the villagers and could not join 
in the revelry." f 

* W. P. Clark, U. S. A., Indian Sign Language, p. 241. 

f This subject is fully discussed by Fll'igel, Zeit. fiir. Volkerpsy- 
chologie, Bd. xi. ; by Prof. James Sully in his Studies of Childhood ; 
and by Dr. Friedmann, Centralblalt fiir Anthropologic, Bd. i. The 
last mentioned argues that the mind of the savage has more points of 
resemblance to the insane than to the child mind. The higher 
emotional susceptibility of savages can be illustrated by abundant 

Study of Primitive Religions 15 

These two traits, therefore, the acceptance of the 
idea as subjectively true, and the subordination of 
reason to the feelings, are the main features of the 
undeveloped mind. They are common in civilised 
conditions, but are universal in savagery. 

The question has often been considered whether 
the mental powers of the savage are distinctly infe- 
rior. This has been answered by taking the children 
of savages when quite young and bringing them up 
in civilised surroundings. The verdict is unanimous 
that they display as much aptitude for the acquisi- 
tion of knowledge, and as much respect for the pre- 
cepts of morality, as the average English or German 
boy or girl ; but with less originality or " initiative." 

I have been in close relations to several full-blood 
American Indians, who had been removed from an 
aboriginal environment and instructed in this man- 
ner ; and I could not perceive that they were either 
in intellect or sympathies inferior to the usual type 
of the American gentleman. One of them notably 
had a refined sense of humour, as well as uncommon 
acuteness of observation. 

The assertion, however, is frequently advanced 
that in their savage state they are of the earth 
earthy, that their whole time is taken up with the 
gratification of sensuous desires, and that they 
neither think nor care for speculations of a super- 
sensuous or spiritual character. 

i6 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The investigation of this point is desirable in a 
study of their religions, for upon it depends the de- 
cision whether we can assign to their myths and rites 
a meaning deeper than that of deception, or passion, 
or frivolity. 

To reach a decision, I take the most unfavourable 
example which can be suggested, — the Australian 
Blacks. Considering their number and the extent 
of their territory, they were, when discovered, the 
most degraded people on the globe. They had 
nothing which could be called a government, and 
some dialects have no word for chief. None of them 
could count the fingers on one hand, for none of the 
dialects had any words for numerals beyond three 
or four. Mr. Hale, the eminent ethnographer, who 
was among them in 1843, says that they evinced 
" an almost brutal stupidity," " downright childish- 
ness and imbecility." * 

Their natural feelings and moral perceptions seem 
incredibly blunted. I can best illustrate this by 
narrating an incident which happened at a frontier 
station, one of many of the same character. 

The white family employed a native girl named 
Mattie about fifteen years old. She had a baby, 
which one day disappeared. On inquiry she stated 

*Ethnography and Philology of the United States Exploring 
Expedition^ p. 108. 

Study of Primitive Religions 17 

that her mother had said that she was too young to 
take care of a baby, and had therefore cooked and 
eaten it with some of her cronies. Mattie cried in 
telling this. Because her baby had been killed ? 
Oh no ! but because her mother had given her none 
of the tidbits, but only the bones to pick ! * 

Yet even these seemingly hopeless brutes have an 
intricate system of kinship and marriage laws, the 
most rig'd of any known. Marriage with sisters or 
first cousins is not only forbidden, " It is not con- 
ceived as possible." The prohibitions about food 
are so absolute that the natives would perish of 
hunger rather than break them. Some of their re- 
ligious ceremonies entail voluntary mutilations of 
the most dreadful description. Their mythology is 
extensive, and I shall have frequent occasion to 
quote it. And so far are they from an obtuse indif- 
ference to the future and the past, an accurate ob- 
server who lived among them says : " They wonder 
among themselves and talk at night about these 
things, and the past existence of their race, and how 
they came here."f 

Savage tribes are distinctly unlettered. They be- 

* The case was not exceptional. Among several tribes it was an 
established custom for a mother to kill and eat her first child, as it 
was believed to strengthen her for later births. See examples in 
Zeitschrift fiir Volkerpsyckologie, Bd. xiv., pp. 460, sq, 

f E. Palmer in Jour. Anthrop, Inst., vol. xiii., pp. 294, 399. 

1 8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

long in a stage of culture where the art of writing, as 
we understand it, is unknown. They have no bibles, 
no sacred books, by which to teach their religions. 
What means have we, therefore, to learn their opin- 
ions about holy things? 

The question is one which demands an answer, the 
more because I shall often refer to the religions of 
tribes long since extinct, and whose very names are 
forgotten. How do we dare to speak with confi- 
dence of what they thought about the gods ? 

We can do so, and it is one of the marvels of 
modern scientific research, quite as admirable as its 
more familiar and practical results. 

Our sources of information regarding primitive 
peoples may be classed under four titles, Archaeology, 
Language, Folk-lore, and Ethnographic descriptions. 

By the first of these, archaioiogy, we become ac- 
quainted with the objective remains of beliefs long 
since extinguished. The temples, idols, and altars 
of dead gods reveal to us the attributes assigned to 
them by their votaries and the influences they were 
believed to exert. We can interpret their symbols, 
and from rude cai*vings re-construct the story of 
their divine struggles. Especially, from ancient 
sepulchres and the modes of disposal of the dead 
which they reveal, can we discern what hopes van- 
ished nations held of a life to come. 

Study of Primitive Religions 19 

In this direction, we are powerfully aided by that 
close similarity of mental products in like stages of 
culture, to which I have referred, and shall often 
refer. By comparing a living tribe with one which 
ten thousand years ago was in a similar condition as 
shown by its relics, we can with the highest proba- 
bility interpret the use and motives of the latter's 

We are further assisted in such research by the 
critical analysis of the early forms of language, which 
is one of the achievements of modern linguistics. 
By establishing the identities of names, we can trace 
the diffusion of myths, and by tracing such names to 
their proper dialect and original meaning, we can 
locate geographically and psychologically the origin 
of given forms of religions. In fact, the value of 
linguistics to the study of religions cannot be over- 
estimated. No one is competent to describe the 
sacred beliefs of a nation, its myths and adjurations, 
unless he has a suflRcient knowledge of its tongue to 
ascertain the true sense of the terms employed in its 

But these so obvious applications are the least 
that language can furnish. Its impress on religions 
goes much deeper. It was well remarked by the 
Chevalier Bunsen that in primitive conditions the 
two poles of human life, around which all else cen- 

20 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

tres, are language and religion, and that each con- 
ditions the other, that is, imparts to it special forms 
and limits. 

For instance, those languages which have gram- 
matic gender almost necessarily divide their deities 
according to sex * ; those in which the passive voice 
is absent or feebly developed, will be led to associate 
with their deities higher conceptions of activity 
than where the passive is a favourite form ; those 
which have no substantive verb cannot express God 
as pure being, but must associate with Him either 
position, action, or suffering. 

In the speech of the Algonquin Indians, there is 
no grammatic distinction of sex ; but there is broad 
discrimination between objects which are animate 
and those which are inanimate. When the Catholic 
missionaries brought to them the rosary, the natives 
at first spoke of it as inanimate ; but as their rever- 
ence for it grew, it was transferred to the animate 
gender, and was thus on its way to a personification. f 

The third source of information is that which is 
called folk-lore. Its field of research is to collect 
the relics and survivals of primitive modes of thought 
and expression, beliefs, customs, and notions, in the 

* Professor Sayce believes that the Sumerian of ancient Babylonia 
was genderless ; and that the local gods were first endowed with sex 
on being adopted by the Semites. — Hibbe7-t Lectures, p. 176. 

f Cuoq, Lexiqiie Algonqtiine, p. 2i, note. 

Study of Primitive Religions 21 

present conditions of culture. It is, therefore, es- 
pecially useful in a study like the present, the more 
so on account of the extraordinary permanence and 
conservative character of religious sentiments and 
ceremonies. Among the peasantry of Europe, the 
paganism of the days of Julius Caesar flourishes with 
scarcely abated vigour, though it may be under new 
names. " The primitive Aryan," writes Professor 
Frazer,* " is not extinct ; he is with us to-day." 
And another English writer does not go too far 
when he says : " There is not a rite or ceremony 
yet practised and revered among us that is not the 
lineal descendant of barbaric thought and usage." f 
It is this which gives to folk-lore its extremely 
instructive character for the student of early re- 

The fourth source of information is the descrip- 
tion of native religions by travellers. You might 
expect this to be the most accurate and therefore 
valuable of all the sources ; but it is just the reverse. 
Omitting the ordinary tourist and globe-trotter, who 
is not expected to know anything thoroughly, and 
never deceives the expectation, even painstaking 
observers, who have lived long with savage tribes, 
sometimes mastering their languages, are, for rea- 

* The Golden Bough, Preface. 

f Ed. Clodd, Myths and Dreams, p. i68. 

22 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

sons I shall presently state, constantly at fault about 
the native religions. We must always take their 
narratives with hesitation, and weigh them against 
others by persons of a different nationality and educa- 
tion. Indeed, of all elements of native life, this of 
religion is the most liable to be misunderstood by 
the foreign visitor. 

Bearing in mind these various sources of informa- 
tion, what tribes, about which we have sufficient 
knowledge, could fairly be considered as examples 
of primitive conditions? 

Beginning with those remotest in time, I believe 
we know enough about the early Aryans to claim it 
for them. The acute researches of recent scholars, 
so admirably summed up in the work of Professor 
Schrader, have thrown a flood of light on the domes- 
tic, cultural, and religious condition of the pristine 
epoch of Aryan society from the side of language ; 
while the tireless prosecution of prehistoric archae- 
ology in Europe has put us into possession of thou- 
sands of objects illustrating the religious arts and 
usages then in vogue. Classical mythology and 
ritual, as well as modern folk-lore, lend further ef- 
ficient aid toward reconstructing the modes and 
expressions of their sacred thought. 

A very ancient people, possibly of Aryan blood, 
but more likely, I believe, to have come from North 

Study of Primitive Religions 23 

Africa and to be of Libyan affinities, were the Etrus- 
cans. They were extremely religious, and their theo- 
logical opinions deeply coloured the worship of the 
Romans. We know the general outlines of their 
doctrine of the gods, and its simplicity and grandeur 
bespeak our admiration. I shall draw from this vener- 
able " Etruscan discipline " from time to time for 

Quite as much may be said of the diligence of the 
explorers and scholars in the field of Semitic an- 
tiquity. We can without room for doubt trace the 
stream of Semitic religious thought through the He- 
brew Bible and the Assyrian and Babylonian cunei- 
form tablets to a possibly non-Semitic source among 
the Accadian or Sumerian population, which ten 
thousand years ago had already begun to develop 
an artistic and agricultural life on the Babylonian 
plain. Numerous students have restored the outlines 
and motives of this ancient faith, whose forms and 
doctrines bind and shape our lives in America 

Of the possibly still older culture of Egypt, so 
much cannot be said. The original creeds of its 
religion have been less successfully divined. Like 
its early inscriptions, they were erased and overlaid 
so often by the caprice or prejudice of successive 
dynasties, and so profoundly modified by foreign 

24 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

influences, that with our present knowledge they 
are no longer legible.* 

Turning to the religions which have preserved 
their primitive forms to modern times, the first place 
should be conceded to those of America. Up to 
four hundred years ago, all of them, throughout the 
continent, had developed from an unknown antiquity 
untouched by the teachings of Asian or European 
instructors ; for no really sane scholar nowadays be- 
lieves either that St. Thomas preached Christianity 
in the New World in the first century, or that Buddh- 
ist monks in the seventh or any other century car- 
ried their tenets into Mexico and Guatemala. 

Many of the American tribes, moreover, lived in 
the rudest stages of social life, ignorant of agricult- 
ure, without fixed abodes, naked or nearly so, in 
constant bloody strife, destitute even of tribal gov- 
ernment. Here, if anywhere, we should find the 
religious sentiment, if it exists at all, in its simplest 

On the other hand, the first European explorers 
found in Peru, Yucatan, and Mexico numerous tribes 

* Besides the general works on Egyptian religion, I may note R. 
Pietschmann, " Aegypt. Fetischdienst und Gotterglaube," in Zeit- 
schrift fiir Etknologie, Bd. x., s. 153, sq. He points out that there 
was no unity in the ancient cults of Egypt, as the gods were those of 
the nomes only. The worship of Osiris did not prevail generally till 
after the sixth dynasty (p. 165). 

Study of Primitive Religions 25 

in almost a civilised condition, builders of huge edi- 
fices of carved stones, cultivating the soil, and ac- 
quainted with a partly phonetic system of writing. 
Their mythology was ample and their ritual elabor- 
ate, so that it could scarcely be called primitive in 
appearance ; but in all these instances, myth and 
ritual were so obviously identical in character wath 
those of the vagrant tribes elsewhere, that we shall 
make no mistake in classifying them together. 

Equally isolated and surely as rude as the rudest 
were the native Australians, the wavy-haired, bearded, 
black people who sparsely inhabited that huge island, 
two thousand miles wide by two thousand five hun- 
dred miles long. Isolated by arid stretches of desert, 
the struggle for life was incessant, and there is little 
wonder that we find them in an incredibly debased 
condition associated with unending war and canni- 
balism. For these very reasons, their religious no- 
tions deserve our closest scrutiny. 

The vast island-world of Polynesia was peopled by 
related tribes, usually of limited cultivation, but with 
a rich mythology, of which we have many strange 
and beautiful fragments. They are primitive in 
form and expression, with singular differences as 
well as analogies to the beliefs of continental tribes. 

Africa, with its countless dusky hordes, offers a less 
promising field to the student of the earhest phases 

26 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

of religion than we might expect. The conditions 
of the arts, and the ruins of foreign-built cities unite 
with the classic historians to show that in remote 
ages the influence of distant nations, from Egypt, 
Arabia, and India, on the typical black population 
was profound and far-reaching. The white Hamites 
of the north crossed the Sahara and extended their 
arms far into the Soudan ; while on the east coast, 
the black Hamites and Arabic Ethiopians drove the 
aborigines far to the South. Later, Arabic influ- 
ences penetrated into the interior, dissolving the 
older faiths or discolouring them. Thus, little of 
the independent development of religious thought 
remains in Africa. Its most primitive features are 
probably best preserved in the extreme South, 
among the Hottentots, Bushmen, and Zulus. 

On the Asian continent, some of the Sibiric tribes 
in the north and some of those of Dravidian descent 
in the mountains of Hindoostan preserved to a late 
day their primitive traits ; while the fading rem- 
nants of the Veddahs in Ceylon and the black 
islanders of Melanesia still continue in the simple 
faiths of their ancestors. 

These hints will indicate the chief sources from 
which I shall draw the material to illustrate the 
rudimentary stages of religious thought and act, the 
embryonic period, as it were, of those emotions and 

Study of Primitive Religions 27 

beliefs which to us, in riper forms, are so dear and 
so holy. 

Here I must define what is meant in these lectures 
by " religions." Most people confine that term to 
the historic faiths and cults, calling others " supersti- 
tions " and " paganisms." Some will not acknow- 
ledge that there is any religion whatever except their 
own ; all other beliefs are heresies, apostasies, or 
heathenisms. Even such an intelligent writer as Sir 
John Lubbock expressed doubts in one of his works 
whether he ought to apply the word " religions " to 
the worship tendered their deities by savages. 

On the other hand, a Protestant will freely de- 
nounce the practices of the Roman Church as 
" superstitions," and will claim that they are degen- 
erations of religion ; while among Protestants, the 
Quaker looks upon all external rites as equally 

No such distinctions can be recognised in eth- 
nology. The principle at the basis of all religions 
and all superstitions is the same, as I shall show in 
the next lecture, and the grossest rites of barbarism 
deserve the name of " religion " just as much as the 
refined ceremonies of Christian churches. The aims 
of the worshipper may be selfish and sensuous, 
there may be an entire absence of ethical intention, 
his rites may be empty formalities and his creed im- 

28 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

moral, but this will be his religion all the same, and 
we should not apply to it any other name.* 

There is no one belief or set of beliefs which con- 
stitutes a religion. We are apt to suppose that every 
creed must teach a belief in a god or gods, in an im- 
mortal soul, and in a divine government of the 
world. The Parliament of Religions, which lately 
met at Chicago, announced, in its preliminary call, 
these elements as essential to the idea of religion. 

No mistake could be greater. The religion which 
to-day counts the largest number of adherents. Buddh- 
ism, rejects every one of these items.f The Jewish 
doctrine of the Old Testament, the Roman religion 
of the time of Julius Caesar, and many others, have 
not admitted the existence of a soul, or the con- 
tinuance of the individual life after death.;}; Some 
believe in souls, but not in gods ; while a divine 
government is a thought rarely present in savage 

* Some have explained superstition as "degenerate religion"; 
others as " religious error"; others (Pfleiderer) as " a pathological 
condition of normal belief " ; but all such definitions depend on the 
view-point. As Roskoff remarks : " The man who is plunged in 
superstition is sure to hold it for the only true faith, and is contented 
with it so long as he is not troubled with doubts." — Das Religions- 
wesen der Naturvolker, p. 17. 

f See T. Rhys Davids, Indian Buddhism, p. 29 (Hibbert Lect- 
ures), and in the first volume of the present series of lectures. 

X Death was to the Roman the somnum eternale. Prof. Sayce 
remarks of the ancient Chaldeans that they had no definite belief in 
an after life. — Hibbert Lectures^ p. 358. 

Study of Primitive Religions 29 

minds. They do not, as a rule, recognise any such 
principle as that of good and evil, or any doctrine of 
rewards and punishment hereafter for conduct in the 
present life. 

There is, in fact, not any one item in any creed 
which is accepted by all religions ; yet a common 
source, a common end in view, and the closest ana- 
logy of means to that end, bind all in one, repre- 
senting an indefeasible element of human nature, 
the lowest containing the potentiahty of the highest, 
the highest being but the necessary evolution of the 
lowest. The same promptings which led the earliest 
of men to frame their crude ideas about the super- 
sensuous around them have nourished and devel- 
oped religions ever since, and keep them alive to-day. 
Temples may crumble and creeds decay, but the 
spirit remains the same. 

This inherent unity of all religious feeling and ex- 
pression was long ago perceived by St. Augustine. 
In a well-known passage of his Retractations he 
makes the striking remark : " Res ipsa, quee nunc 
religio Christiana nuncupatur, erat apud antiquos, 
nee defuit ab initio generis humani " ; " That which 
is now called the Christian religion existed among 
the ancients, and in fact was with the human race 
from the beginning." 

This is, essentially, the maxim of modern eth- 

30 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

nology. The religiosity of man is a part of his 
psychical being. In the nature and laws of the 
human mind, in its intellect, sympathies, emotions, 
and passions, lie the well-springs of all religions, 
modern or ancient. Christian or heathen. To these 
we must refer, by these we must explain, whatever 
errors, falsehoods, bigotry, or cruelty have stained 
man's creeds and cults ; to them we must credit 
whatever truth, beauty, piety, and love have hal- 
lowed and glorified his long search for the perfect 
and the eternal. 

If this opinion of the place of religion in ethnology 
is correct, we should not expect to find any con- 
siderable number of men, in the present epoch of 
the race's development, devoid of some form of 
worship and belief. 

The fact is that there has not been a single tribe, 
no matter how rude, known in history or visited by 
travellers, which has been shown to be destitute of 
religion, under some form. 

The contrary of this has been asserted by various 
modern writers of weight, for example by Herbert 
Spencer and Sir John Lubbock, not from their 
own observation, for neither ever saw a savage 
tribe, but from the reports of travellers and mis- 

I speak advisedly when I say that every assertion 

Study of Primitive Religions 31 

to this effect when tested by careful examination 
has proved erroneous.* 

What led to such a mistaken opinion is easily 
seen. The missionaries would not recognise as re- 
ligion the beliefs which were so different from and 
inferior to their own. The god of the heathens was 
to them no god whatever. When they heard stories 
of ghosts, magic, and charms, they spurned these as 
old wives' fables, and confidently proclaimed that 
the tribe had no religion. Thus it was with those 
who first worked in South Africa. They returned 
and proclaimed that atheism was " endemic " among 
the tribes of that region. Later observers, acquaint- 
ing themselves with the languages of the Blacks, 
found an ample mythology and an extensive ritual 
of worship. f 

Another example may be quoted from a recent 
description of the Motu tribe of New Guinea. The 
writer, a missionary, denies that they have any reli- 
gion whatever ; but immediately proceeds to describe 
their numerous " superstitious " rites, their belief in 
spirits, their ceremonial law, etc. ! ^ 

* The question has been carefully examined by G. Roskoff in his 
work Das Rdigionswesen der Rohesten Naturvolker {Lt.\^z\^, 1880) 
lie conclusively refutes the assertions that tribes have been encount 
ered without religion. 

f Calloway, Religious System of the Amazulus, p. 113. 

X Rev. W. Y. Turner in Jour. Anthrop. Institute, vol. vii., p. 

32 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Another and potent cause of error was the unwill- 
ingness of the natives to speak to foreigners of the 
sacred mysteries. This is not peculiar to them, but 
obtains everywhere. In the polite society of our 
own cities, it is held to be an infraction of etiquette 
to question a person about his religious opinions and 
practices. Greater repugnance would be felt were 
it known that the questioner could have no sym- 
pathy with one's opinions, and would probably hold 
them up to derision and contempt. 

Even a stronger deterrent motive closes the mouth 
of most savages giving such information. It is tabu., 
\> prohibited under severe penalties, to impart it to any 
stranger, or even to another tribesman. The tend- 
ency to secrecy, to the esoteric, belongs to all re- 
ligions, and especially to those in which the emotions 
are predominant, as is the case with primitive cults. 

Even with a willing narrator, it is impossible to 
acquire a true understanding of a religion without a 
knowledge of the language in which its myths and 
precepts are couched. Ordinary interpreters are 
worse than useless. Captain Bourke tells us that time 
and again he was assured by Mexican interpreters 
who had lived for years among the Apaches that 
this tribe had no religion and no sacred ceremonies. 

" These interpreters," he adds, " had no intention 
to deceive ; they were simply unable to disengage 

Study of Primitive Religions 33 

themselves from their own prejudices ; they could 
not credit the existence of any such thing as religion 
save and except that taught them at their mother's 
knees." * If these Spanish-Mexicans, who had 
passed half their lives among the natives, denied 
them religion, what can we expect the ordinary 
traveller to learn in a few weeks' visit ? 

Religion, therefore, is and has been, so far as 
history informs us, universal in the human race. 
Can we go farther back in time than history leads 
us, and say that it has ever been an element of 

The resources at our command to answer this 
inquiry lie in prehistoric archaeology and linguistics. 

Beyond historic ages, and beyond those referred 
to by vague tradition, which we may call semi- 
historic, lies the epoch of culture called from its 
chief industry the Stone Age, divided into the more 
recent or " neolithic " period, and the older or 
"palaeolithic" period. 

Concerning the former, there can be no doubt 
whatever that religion exercised a tremendous in- 
fluence on men's minds. We have numberless 
sepulchres of peoples then living, mighty mounds 
and massive temples, such as Stonehenge and 
Karnac; we have them by the tens of thousands, 
* Medicine Men of the Apache, pp. 499, 500, 

34 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

over vast areas, remaining as indubitable proofs that 
the chief market of the time of those early sons of 
the soil was to worship the gods and prepare for 
death. We have their idols, amulets, and mystic 
symbols, their altars and their talismans, so as to 
leave no doubt of their deep devotion. No archaeo- 
logist questions this. 

When we come to palaeolithic man, however, 
especially to those ancient tribes who lived in 
Western Europe when the great continental glacier 
chilled the air of Southern France to an arctic 
frigidity, or still earlier, in that pre-glacial summer 
when the hippopotamus found a congenial home in 
the river Thames, we are not so sure. Among the 
many thousands of artificially shaped stone and 
bone objects which have been collected from that 
horizon, there is not one which we can positively 
identify as of religious purport, as a charm, amulet, 
fetish, or idol. The rare instances in which the 
bones of the men of that age have been preserved 
reveal no positive signs of funerary rites. 

For these reasons some able archaeologists, such as 
Professor G. de Mortillet, have maintained that man, 
as he then was, had not yet developed his religious 
faculties. The evidence for this, is, indeed, negative, 
and fresh discoveries may refute it, but the present 
probability is that in the infancy of the race there 

Study of Primitive Religions 35 

was at least no objective expression of religious 

This appears supported by testimony from 
another quarter. When we can trace back the 
sacred words of a language to their original roots, 
we find that these roots do not have religious associ- 
ations, but refer to concrete and sensuous images. 
There must have been a time, therefore, when those 
who spoke that original dialect employed these 
words without any religious meaning attached to 
them, and therefore had no religious ideas expressed 
in their language, and presumably none defined in 
their minds. 

I am not sure, however, that this argument is so 
valid as some writers claim. Those early men may 
have had other religious terms, now lost ; and the 
current belief among linguists that all radicals had 
at first concrete meanings is one I seriously doubt. 
Mental processes and feelings are just as real as 
actions, and in the aboriginal tongues of America 
are expressed by radicals as distinct and as ancient 
as any for sensuous perception. 

There must, however, have been a time in the 
progress of organic forms from some lower to that 
highest mammal, Man, when he did not have a re- 

* The question is carefuly discussed by IToernes, Urgeschichte des 
Menschen, p. 93, sq., who disputes Mortillet's opinion. The latter is 
given in his Prihistorique Aniiquite de V Homme, p. 603, sq. 

36 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

ligious consciousness ; for it is doubtful if even the 
slightest traces of it can be discerned in the inferior 

Mr. Darwin, indeed, put in a plea that his 
favourite dog manifested the same psychical traits 
which lead savages to believe in gods or spiritual 
agencies* ; and lately Professor Pinsero, of Palermo, 
has argued that the anthropoid apes cultivate a 
worship of serpents, even burying them with con- 
siderable ceremony, and placing in their tombs a 
provision of insects for their consumption in their 
future life ! f 

But these scientific speculations have not found 
general acceptance, and even Professor Pinsero him- 
self, while conceding religion to the ape, denies it to 
prehistoric man of the earlier epochs. 

We may conclude, therefore, that the develop- 
ment of the religious side of man's nature began at 
a very early period in his history as a species, though 
probably it was extremely vague or practically absent 
in his first stadia; and that it is something distinctly 
human, and not shared in any definite form by even 
the best developed of the lower animals. 

It is the only trait in which he is qualitatively sep- 
arated from them. They, too, communicate know- 
ledge by sounds; they have governments and arts; 

* The Descent of Man, p. 95. 

t Quoted in Z' Anthropologic, vol. viii., p. 334. 

Study of Primitive Religions 37 

but never do we see anywhere among them the notion 
of the Divine. This was the spark of Promethean 
fire which has guided man along the darksome 
and devious ways of his earthly pilgrimage to the 
supremacy he now enjoys. 

The Greek fable tells us of the shepherd lad 
Endymion, who fed his sheep on Mt. Latmus, and 
dreamed of no higher ambition, until in his sleep 
the goddess Selene descended from heaven and em- 
braced him. Inspired by her divine touch, he waked 
to noble aspirations, and went forth to become mon- 
arch of Elis and father of a line of kings. 

So the human mind groped for dateless ages amid 
brutish toils and pleasures, unconscious of grander 
aims ; until the thought of God, rising to conscious- 
ness within the soul, whispered to it of endless 
progress and divine ideals, in quest of which it has 
sought and will ever continue seeking, with tireless 
endeavour and constantly increasing reward. 

This question settled, another arises. The re- 
ligions thus found everywhere among the rudest 
tribes, did they take root and exert a deep influence 
on the individual and society, or were they super- 
ficially felt, and of slight moment in practical life? 

In reference to this I can scarcely be too positive. 
No opinion can be more erroneous than the one some- 
times advanced that savages are indifferent to their 

38 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

faiths. On the contrary, the rule, with very few ex- 
ceptions, is that religion absorbs nearly the whole 
life of a man under primitive conditions. From 
birth to death, but especially during adult years, his 
daily actions are governed by ceremonial laws of the 
severest, often the most irksome and painful char- 
acters. He has no independent action or code of 
conduct, and is a very slave to the conditions which 
such laws create. 

This is especially visible in the world-wide customs 
of totemic divisions and the tahi, or religious pro- 
hibitions. These govern his food and drink, his 
marriage and social relations, the disposition of 
property, and the choice of his wives. An infraction 
of them is out of the question. It means exile or 
death. The notions of tolerance, freedom of con- 
science, higher law, are non-existent in primitive 
communities, except under certain personal condi- 
tions which I shall mention in a later lecture. 

As has been tersely said by Professor Granger, 
" Religion in the ancient world comprised every 
social function " ; and the identity of its rules with 
those of common life is correctly put by Professor 
Thiele in these words : "The idea of a separation 
between Church and State is utterly foreign to all 
the religions of antiquity." * 

♦Granger, Religion of the Rowans, p. 21 ; Thiele, //is(. of the 
Egyptian Religion, Introd. 

Study of Primitive Religions 39 

What was true in those ancient days is equally so 
in this age among savage peoples. Let us take as an 
example the Dyaks of Borneo. A recent observer 
describes them as utter slaves to their "supersti- 
tions," that is, to their religion.* "When they lay 
out their fields, gather the harvest, go hunting or 
fishing, contract a marriage, start on an expedition, 
propose a commercial journey, or anything of import- 
ance, they always consult the gods, offer sacrifices, 
celebrate feasts, study the omens, obtain talismans, 
and so on, often thus losing the best opportunity for 
the business itself." 

This is equally the case with most savage tribes. 
Mr. J. Walter Fewkes informed me that it was a 
severe moral shock to the Pueblo Indians to see the 
white settlers plant corn without any religious cere- 
mony ; and a much greater one to perceive that the 
corn grew, flourished, and bore abundant crops ! 
The result did more to shatter their simple faith 
than a dozen missionary crusades. 

To the simple mind of the primitive man, as to 
the Mohammedan to-day, there is no such thing as 
an intermediate law, directing phenomena, and 
capable of expression in set terms. To him, every 
event of nature and of life is an immediate mani- 

* Dr. Schwaner, in H. Ling Roth, The Natives of Sarawak, vol. 
ii., App. p. clxii. 

40 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

festation of the power of God, eine Kraftprobe 

Religion, however, does not begin from any ex- 
ternal pressure, no matter how strong this may be. 
If it has any vitality, if it is anything more than the 
barrenest ceremonial, it must start within, from the 
soul itself. Thus it did in primordial ages in all 
tribes of men. 

Therefore in studying its origin and pursuing its 
development we must commence with its fonts and 
springs in the mind of man, its psychic sources. 
These understood, we can proceed to its three chief 
expressions, in Words, in Objects, and in Rites. 
* H. Grimme, Mohammed, p. 38. 


The Origin and Contents of Primitive 

Contents: — Former Theories of the Origin of Religions — Inadequacy 
of these — Universal Postulate of Religions that Conscious Voli- 
tion is the Source of Force — How Mind was Assigned to Nature 
— Communion between the Human and the Divine Mind — Uni- 
versality of " Inspiration " — Inspiration the Product of the Sub- 
Conscious Mind — Known to Science as "Suggestion" — This 
Explained — Examples — Illustrations from Language — No Primi- 
tive Monotheism — The Special Stimuli of the Religious Emo- 
tions : I. Dreaming and Allied Conditions — Life as a Dream — 
2. The Apprehension of Life and Death and the Notion of the 
Soul — 3. The Perception of Light and Darkness ; Day and 
Night— The Sky God as the High God— 4. The Observation of 
Extraordinary Exhibitions of Force — The Thunder God — 5. The 
Impression of Vastness — Dignity of the Sub-Conscious Intelli- 

IN the last lecture we have seen that all tribes of 
men, so far as is known, have had religions. 
How this happened, what general cause brought 
about so universal a fact, has puzzled the brains of 
philosophers and theologians. Their explanations 
have been as various and as conflicting on this as on 
most other subjects. 

A goodly number of philosophers, ancient and 

42 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

modern, have looked upon religion of any kind as a 
symptom of a diseased brain. Thus Empedocles, in 
the fifth century B.C., declared it to be a sickness of 
the mind, and Feuerbach, in the present century, has 
characterised it as the most pernicious malady of 
humanity. Regarding all forms of religions as delu- 
sions, detrimental therefore to sound reason and the 
pursuit of truth, they believed the human intellect 
could freely employ its powers only when liberated 
from such shackles. 

Another ancient theory still survives, that which 
has its name from Euhemerus, a Sicilian writer 
of the time of Alexander the Great. He claimed 
that religions arose from the respect and reverence 
paid to kings and heroes during their lives, continued 
by custom after their deaths. Under the modern 
name of " ancestor worship " this has been maintained 
by Herbert Spencer and others as the primitive 
source of all worship. 

Yet another philosophical opinion has been that 
religions were due to the craft of rulers and priests, 
who, by the aid of superstitious fear, sought to keep 
their subjects and votaries in subjection. These 
tricksters invented the terrors of another world to 
secure their own power and places in this one. This 
opinion was a favourite about the time of the French 
Revolution and is mirrored in the poems of Shelley, 

Origin and Contents 43 

who announced it as one of his missions, " to un- 
veil the religious frauds by which nations have been 
deluded into submission." * 

The prevailing theory of the great world-religions, 
Christianity and Mohammedanism, has been sub- 
stantially that of Empedocles. They have regarded 
all the religions of the world as cunning fabrications 
of the Devil and his imps, snares spread for human 
souls ; always with one exception however : each 
excepts itself. This is the view so grandly expressed 
in Milton's Paradise Lost and quite common yet in 
civilised lands. 

On the other hand, a strong school of Christian 
writers, led early in this century by Joseph de Maistre 
and Chateaubriand and represented in our tongue by 
Archdeacon Trench, have asserted that all faiths, even 
the most savage, are fragments and reminiscences, 
distorted and broken indeed, of a primitive revelation 
vouchsafed by the Almighty to the human race 
everywhere at the beginning. These have occupied 
themselves in pointing out the analogies of savage 
and pagan creeds and rites with those of Christianity, 
in proof of their theory. 

Not remote from them are the teachers of the 
doctrine of the " inner light," that " light which light- 
eth every man who cometh into the world," disclos- 

* In his Preface to The Revolt of Islam. 

44 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

ing unto him the existence of God and the fact of 
his soul. They teach, with Wordsworth, that 

" Trailing clouds of glory do we come 
From God who is our home ; " 

and that it is by perversion or wilful blindness that 
any man avers ignorance of these primal truths. 

The philosophic aspect of this theory has been 
presented by the master minds of Kant, Hegel, and 
Schelling. Kant identified the idea of God with 
the Ideal of Reason, the perfect Intelligence, to- 
ward which all minds, even the humblest, must 
necessarily strive. Hegel, in a fine passage of his 
Philosophy of Religion, urges the study of pagan and 
primitive religions with a view to define their real 
significance and to discover the grains of truth which 
ever lie within them, the reason and the goodness 
which give them life. 

The modern German ethnographers, such as 
Peschel, Ratzel, and Schurtz,* have not ventured to 
follow these earlier thinkers of their nation, but 
have contented themselves with tracing the origin of 
religion to one characteristic of the human intellect, 
to wit, the notion of Cause. The relation of cause 
and effect, they claim, is so ingrained in the think- 

* O. Peschel, Volkerkunde, s. 255 ; F. Ratzel, Ethnographic, 
Bd. i ; — Schurtz, Catechismus der Volkerkunde, s. 88. 

Origin and Contents 45 

ing mind that it inevitably leads all men to assume 
causes, such as spiritual agencies, when others are 
not visible. 

This popular view seems weak ; for not only is 
the relation of cause to effect a mere assumption, 
and, indeed, rejected by exact science ; but it 
dodges the very question at issue, which is to ex- 
plain why spiritual agencies are imagined as causes 
of material effects. 

Similar objections lie to deriving primitive re- 
ligions from a vague " perception of the Infinite," 
or a sensus numinis, some dens in nobis, " warning 
us," as Virgil says, " by his quick motion." These are 
unclear, unsatisfying expressions, offering no rational 
explanation, and full of equivocations. 

A favourite theory in all times is that religions 
arose from the emotion of fear. It was taught by 
the Latin poet Petronius in a famous line, where he 
says " Fear first made the gods"; and it has been 
strenuously advocated by many modern philosophers 
and ethnologists. 

Now if this emotion is alone sufficient to evoke 
religious feeling, why, I ask, is that feeling absent in 
the craven and timid lower animals? Why is it so 
feeble in many a coward ? Why has it been so strong 
in many a hero ? 

Moreover, the spirit of many early religions is the 

46 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

reverse of that of fear. They are, as Dr. Robert- 
son Smith correctly said, " predominantly joyous." 
These are proofs enough that this ancient and 
popular notion rests on a misconception of facts. 
The " fear of God " enters, indeed, into every 
religion ; but religion itself did not arise from it. 

' We must already have a notion of God, before we 
can fear Him. 

If we are going to apply the scientific method to 
the study of religions we must offer an explanation 
for their existence which is intelligible, which is 
verifiable, and which holds good for all of them, 
primitive or developed, those of the remotest ages 
and those of to-day. Only thus can the ethnologist 
treat them as one element of the history of 
Humanity, a property of the species. 

\ This has not been done, so far as I know, up to 
the present time. In fact, much of the teaching of 
modern anthropology has been calculated to deter 
it. The outspoken advocacy of atheism and 
materialism by the French School has led its dis- 
ciples to consider the effort unprofitable ; * and the 
acceptance of the doctrine of " Animism " as a 
sufficient explanation of early cults has led to 
the neglect, in English-speaking lands, of their pro- 

* The eminent anthropologist Broca denied that religiosity is a 
distinctive trait of humanity. See further in Hovelacque et Herve, 
Precis d ^Anthropologic, pp. 634-636. 

Origin and Contents 47 

founder analysis. Such a writer, for instance, as 
Andrew Lang does not hesitate to teach that, " The 
origin of a belief in God is beyond the ken of 
history and speculation." * 

The real explanation of the origin of religion is 
simple and universal. Let any man ask himself on 
what his own religious belief is founded, and the 
answer, if true, will hold good for every member of 
the race, past and present. It makes no difference 
whether we analyse the superstitions of the rudest 
savages, or the lofty utterances of John the Evangel- 
ist, or of Spinoza the " god-intoxicated philo- 
sopher " ; we shall find one and the same postulate 
to the faith of all. 

This universal postulate, the psychic origin of all 
religious thought, is the recognition, or, if you 
please, the assumption, tJiat conscious volition is the 
ultimate source of all Force. It is the belief that 
behind the sensuous, phenomenal world, distinct 
from it, giving it form, existence, and activity, lies 
the ultimate, invisible, immeasurable power of Mind, 
of conscious Will, of Intelligence, analogous in some 
way to our own ; and, — mark this essential corollary, 
— that man is in communication with it. 

What the highest religions thus assume was 
likewise the foundation of the earliest and most 
* Myth, Ritual, and Religion, vol. i., chap. xi. 

48 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

primitive cults. The one universal trait amid their 
endless forms of expression was the unalterable 
faith in Mind, in the super-sensuous, as the ultimate 
source of all force, all life, all being. 

Science and Christianity teach the same, but with 
this difference : the progress of observation has 
taught us the existence of certain uniform se- 
quences which we call "laws of nature," based solely 
on Mind, but representing its processes of realisa- 
tion. The savage knew not these. He imagined 
every motion in nature was the immediate exhibit- 
ion of Will, his own will in his own motions, some 
seen or unseen will in other motions. The seen 
were of another being like himself ; the unseen 
were to that extent unknown, and these were his 

I repeat, wherever we find the divine, the spirit- 
ual agency, set forth in myth or symbol, creed or 
rite, we find it characterised by two traits : it is of 
the nature of the human mind, that is, super- 
sensuous; and it is the ultimate source of power. 
It will be my aim to show the expressions of these 
universal postulates of the religious sentiment in 
the rudest faiths of the world. 

You may ask, by what process of thinking did 
primitive man assign mind to nature. The process 
is extremely simple, and is illustrated by the action 

Origin and Contents 49 

of any child. Let one be accidentally hurt by an 
empty rocking-chair in motion ; at once, it is angry 
at the chair, and is gratified to see it whipped ! 
The child-mind assigns to the object the will and 
the sensations of which it is conscious in itself. 
This is the simplest explanation it can imagine for 

Precisely so is it with the savage man. Wherever 
he perceives motion, independent of a living being, 
he assumes the presence of a conscious agent, not 
visible to his senses. As Professor Sayce remarks 
of the early Chaldeans : " To them the spiritual, the 
Zi, was that which manifested life, and the test of 
the manifestation of life was movement." * This is 
universally true of primitive faiths. 

But this was not enough. To most if not all 
primitive men, movement was not the only mani- 
festation of life. To them, the immovable, the 
rock, the mountain, any inanimate object, was like- 
wise a conscious spiritual agency, a thinking being. 
This, too, has its explanation in one of the simplest, 
most elementary traits of mind, the sense of Person- 
ality. To the undeveloped reason, the Other is 
ever conceived as Another, a Self, and is clothed 
with the attributes of t]ie Self, of the thinking Ego. 

* Hibbert Lectures, p. 328. Darwin has a parallel passage, De- 
scent of Man, p. 95. 



50 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

This is always the case in the tales of children and 
the myths of savage tribes.* 

These are the earHest concepts of the rehgious 
faculty ; but they would have been powerless to 
seize upon the emotions and to develop the great 
religions of the world, had they not been supported 
by that which is the corner-stone of every creed on 
earth, the corollary I mentioned, to wit, the direct 
communion between the human and the divine 
mind, between the Man and God. 

This is the one trait shared by the highest as well 
as the lowest, it is the one proof of authenticity 
which each proclaims for itself. I shall tell you of 
religions so crude as to have no temples or altars, 
no rites or prayers ; but I can tell you of none that 
does not teach the belief of the intercommunion of 
the spiritual powers and man. Every religion is a 
Revelation — in the opinion of its votaries. Those 
which are called the " book-religions " depend main- 
ly upon the record of a revelation, while in all primi- 
tive faiths inspiration is actual and constant. The 

* " Everything, animate or inanimate, which has an independent 
being, or can be individualised, possesses a spirit, or, more properly, 
a shade {idahi, a shadow, or reflection)." Washington Matthews, 
Ethnog. of the Hidatsa, p. 48. This expresses the general Welt- 
anschauung of the savage mind. Let it be remembered that it is 
also characteristic of the poetic, or personifying representation of 
nature, and thus belongs to the highest artistic expressions of the 
human mind as well as to its feeblest utterances. 

Origin and Contents 51 

human soul, regarded in its origin as an emanation of 
the Divine, is in its nature omniscient when in mo- 
ments of ecstasy it frees itself from its material 

When an Australian native is asked if he has ever 
seen the great Creator, Baiame, he will reply : 
" No, not seen him, but I have felt [or inwardly 
perceived] him."f A Basuto chief replied to the 
question whether his people knew of God before 
the missionaries came: "We did not know Him, 
but we dreamed of Him." 

All shamanism is based on a direct relation to 
divinity. The shaman is an inspired prophet and 
healer, and believes as firmly in his inspiration as do 
his credulous adherents. From shamanism was devel- 
oped in India the practice known as Vo^-a, charac- 
terised by ecstatic seizures, periods of cerebral 
exaltation, and alleged divine powers. :}: To the 
same origin we must attribute the similar phe- 

* This was the universal opinion of classical antiquity. See Payne 
Knight, Aitcient Art, p. 45. It was also the orthodox theory of the 
early Church concerning the redeemed soul. It " will know all 
things as God doth. Whatsoever is in Heaven and whatsoever is in 
earth, everything will he see with that veritable knowledge which 
nothing escapeth." — Select IVorks of St. Ephrem the Syrian, trans- 
lated by Rev. J. B. Morris, p. 353. 

f Ridley, in your. Anthrop. Institute, vol. ii., p. 269. 

\ Mr. A. E. Gough gives reasons for the opinion that \hQ yogin, who 
practises the yoga, is a lineal follower of the ancient local shaman. 
— Philosophy of the Upanishads, p. 221. 

52 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

nomcna of " speaking with tongues," and religious 

I am not speaking of deceptions or illusions. 
When I say that all religions depend for their ori- 
gin and continuance directly upon inspiration, I 
state an historic fact. It may be known under 
other names, of credit or discredit, as mysticism, 
ecstasy, rhapsody, demoniac possession, the divine 
afflatus, the gnosis, or in its latest christening, " cos- 
mic consciousness." * All are but expressions of a 
belief that knowledge arises, words are uttered, or 
actions performed, not through conscious ideation 
and reflective purpose, but through the promptings 
of a power above or beyond the individual mind.f 
Prophets and shamans, evangelists and Indian medi- 
cine-men, all claim, and all claim with honesty, to be 
moved by the god within, the dc2is in nobis, and to 
speak the words of the Lord. 

* This curious recent development of most ancient experience is 
described by Dr. M. Bucke in the work, In Ee Walt IVhitnian. 

I Tlie phenomena of " demoniac possession " are so remarkable, 
and so frequent in lower conditions of culture that they have been 
defended as the actual influence of evil spirits by intelligent modern 
observers (see the work of Rev. Dr. Nevins, Demoniac Possession in 
China, etc.). Bishop Calloway says most of the negro converts in 
Natal have such attacks after embracing Christianity {Jour. Ayithrop. 
Society, vol. i., p. 171). Brough Smith describes such attacks among 
the Australians. Strong men are suddenly seized with violent con- 
vulsions. They dance wildly, scream at the top of their voices, foam 
at the mouth, and continue until utterly exhausted. They are homi- 
cidal when in this condition, and their companions fear to approach 
them {The Aborigines of Victoria, vol. i., p. 466). 

Origin and Contents 53 

The intensity of purpose, and the suppression of 
the reason which everywhere and at all times this 
sense of inspiration brings with it, cannot be over- 
estimated in their influence on the history of the 
race. To them are due all fanaticism, religious 
bigotry, and illiberality. 

He who has \yalked with God, who has felt the 
pressure of the divine hand, who has been rewarded 
with the " beatific vision," to him all lesser ties are 
weak, all knowledge vain. He will say : " It is bet- 
ter to know God and be ignorant of all else, than to 
know all else and be ignorant of God." No reason- 
ing can convince him of error, for his logic acknow- 
ledges not the laws of human thought ; no appeal 
will soften his judgments, for he utters not the 
decision of a man, but the unalterable edict of the 

Unless we can offer a rational explanation for this 
universal trait, all religions become inexplicable. 
Fortunately the investigations of modern psycho- 
logy enable us to present such an explanation. It 
teaches us by innumerable examples that by far the 
majority of the impressions on our senses leave no 
trace in conscious recollection, although they are 
stored in the records of the brain ; that what seems 
lost to memory, still lingers in its recesses ; and that 
mental action is constantly going on and reaching 
results, wholly without our knowledge. 

54 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The psychologist calls this process by the terms 
" unconscious cerebration," or " psychic automat- 
ism." It is the function of the " sub-limital con- 
sciousness," or, for short, the " sub-consciousness." 
Not only is it common, it is constant, and the results 
of this unperceived labour of our minds is often far 
more valuable than those of our intelligent efforts. 
The most complex mechanical inventions, the most 
impressive art-work of the world, even the most dif- 
ficult mathematical solutions, have been attained 
through this unknowing mechanism of mind. They 
seemed real inspirations, but we may be sure that 
the mind through long conscious effort had been 
storing the material and laying the foundation for 
the perfect edifice which sprang so magically into 

The psychologist has gone farther. Not resting 
content with the detection of this automatic mental 
machinery, he has studied how it is set a-going, and 
is prepared to show that in all its forms it can be 
produced at will under favourable conditions. Like 
an ancient necromancer, he can inspire and bewitch, 
he can exorcise demons and cast out devils. 

His power is not occult, for it belongs to science, 
and science has no secrets. It is known as " sug- 
gestion," and in it lies the sociologic power of all 
religions and superstitions whatever, primitive or 

Origin and Contents 55 

present. It is necessary, therefore, that I devote a 
few words to its explanation. 

Suggestion in its simplest form is the indirect 
evocation of an idea in the mind as the starting- 
point of a process of thought and feeling. The idea 
may be impressed by a repetition of the stimulus, 
by association with allied ideas, or by sensory con- 
tacts. It may be evoked by deliberate effort of our 
own, which is called " auto-suggestion " ; or the im- 
pression may be derived from or directed to a num- 
ber of individuals, which is termed " collective sug- 

Powerful means of suggestion are the monotonous 
repetitions of certain words ; the fixation of the 
sight on a single object ; the concentration of the 
mind on one thought ; the reduction of the ordi- 
nary nutrition ; association with persons already 
under its influence ; continuance of the same mo- 
tions ; prolonged hearing the same note or rhythmic 
chord ; silence, darkness, and solitude. These may 
be variously combined and brought to bear upon 
the mind in such a manner as entirely to alter its 
ordinary habits, and seemingly to evoke another 

The rationale by which this is reached is through 
developing the automatic and unconscious action of 
the mind into a conscious display of its powers. 

56 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

This may be repulsive or admirable, above or be- 
low the normal capacities ; but is always correlated 
to the individual, and connected with his experiences. 

This is the explanation of nearly all the religious 
experiences of primitive peoples, as it is of what is 
known as " theopathy " everywhere, and of the 
modern forms of theosophy, mesmerism, and hyp- 

All religious teachings and associations, in the 
lowest as well as the highest faiths, aim to cultivate 
these mystical feelings by increasing the intensity of 
the suggestions which give rise to them, and dimin- 
ishing the force of other suggestions which may 

Even in civilised communities it is extraordinary 
with what facility suggestive sense-delusions can be 
produced in waking persons. At least ninety out of 
every hundred individuals can be persuaded thus to 
deceive themselves. The extreme contagiousness 
of such delusions, common enough in civilised con- 
ditions, is greatly increased in the savage state. In 
their lives the phenomena of auto-suggestion are 
strikingly frequent. Among the African Zulus any 
adult can cast himself or herself into the hypnotic 

* The most complete study of this subject in connection with the 
development of religions is the work of Dr. Otto Stoll, Suggestion 
Mnd Hypnotismus in der Volkerpsychologie (Leipzig, 1894). 

Origin and Contents 57 

state, and by this obtain what they consider second 
sight, — " the power to see where lost objects are, and 
how absent friends are occupied." When asked to 
explain this state of mind, they can only say that it 
is one " in which a man is awake, but sees things 
which he would not see, if he were not in this state " * ; 
which reminds us of the remarkable doctrine of the 
Sanscrit Upanishads — "There is no limit to the 
knowing of the Self that knows." f Among many 
Australian tribes, among the Kamschatkans, and 
among the Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego, as well as 
many other peoples, the mysterious power of the 
shamans or medicine men is shared by all adults in a 
greater or less degree. ^ 

These are at the bottom of the scale. One degree 
higher, and we find the priesthood a separate class, 
usually of both sexes, but chosen by natural select- 
ion from those members of the community who by 
temperament or cultivation possess in the highest 
degree this tendency to mystical power. This 

* Bishop Calloway, in your. Anthrop. Institute, i., p. 177 ; and in 
his Religious System of the Amaziilu, p. 232. The Bushmen explain 
it as "a kind of beating of the flesh," which tells them the future, 
and where lost things may be found. They add : " Those who are 
stupid do not understand this teaching." — Bleak, Busfwian Folk-lore, 
p. 17. 

f A. E. Gough, Philosophy of the Upanishads, p. 243. 

\ Klemm, Allgemeine Culturgeschichte, Bd. ii., s. 337 ; A. M. 
Curr, The Australian Race, vol. i., p. 48. 

58 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

is generally indicated by the clearness and char- 
acter of the dreams and visions which appear at 
the time he or she enters adult Hfe. These are con- 
sidered to be direct inspirations from the spirit 
world, either from the souls of the dead, or the 
powers other than those which control the destiny of 

These inspired seers represent the priesthood of 
every primitive religion. They cultivate and pre- 
serve it, and in them the missionaries of higher 
faiths have ever found their most resolute foes and 
successful opponents. The reason is, as I have said, 
that the shaman has himself been face to face with 
God, has heard His voice, and felt His presence. 
His faith therefore is real, and cannot be shaken by 
any argument. He may indeed, and he generally 
does, assist his public performances with some trick- 
ery, some thaumaturgy; but that this is merely 
superadded for effect is proved by the general cus- 
tom that when one such adept is ill or in straits he 
will solicit the aid of another. * 

Among his associates he is looked upon as set 
apart from other men by the divinity which chooses 
him for its agent, or dwells within him. In the 
Polynesian islands this is forcibly expressed in the 

* Curr notes this among the Australians, uhi supra, vol. i., p. 48 ; 
and it is general among American Indians. 

Origin and Contents 59 

terms applied to the native priests, pia aiua, " god 
boxes," receptacles of divinity ; and amama, " open 
mouths," for through them the god speaks, not their 
own selves.* 

The presence of divinity is recognised and felt 
only in unusual mental states, in moments of ecstasy 
or trance, in periods of rapture, intoxication, or 
frenzy. Hence in all early and many late religions 
abnormal and pathological mental seizures are re- 
garded as cases of inspiration, or else of demoniac 
possession. In the Quichua language of Peru the 
word Jiuaca is their most general term for the divine, 
but Jmaca runa, " divine man," means one who is 
crazy f ; and in Greek, the word mania was used for 
both madness and prophetic inspiration. 

We thus see that in this mental state we find the 
psychic development of the primitive idea of the 
divine, the notion of God. It is not, as has some- 
times been claimed, the sudden result of a single 
feeling ; it is a complex conception, from a multi- 
tude of obscurely felt impressions and emotions. It 
is neither an intuition nor an induction ; it is neither 
an inference from observation, nor the conclusion 
of a logical process. A study of its aspect in savage 
life shows that it arises from the perception of the 

* W. W. Gill, Myths and Songs frorn the South Pacific, p. 35, 
f Middendorf, Keshua Worterbuch, s. v. 

6o Religions of Primitive Peoples 

latent activity of the sub-consciousness, from the 
strange sense of activity, will, and power which, un- 
der favourable conditions of concentration (suggest- 
ion), it imparts to the more or less conscious Self. 
This influence is at first vague, impersonal, unde-. 
fined, but is gradually differentiated and personified. 
Furthermore, it is constantly strengthened and sus- 
tained by the agency of that cultivated suggestion I 
have described, which is intended to bring the indi- 
vidual into contact with unknown activities. Thus 
the idea of the superhuman is developed from the 
unconscious human powers of Mind. 

Conclusive evidence of this is offered by language. 
From the abundant material at hand let us choose 
three examples, widely separated, one from the Dako- 
tan stock of North American Indians, one from the 
ancient Peruvians, and one from the South Sea 

The hidden and mysterious power of the universe 
is expressed in the Dakotan dialects by the word 
wakan. This term expresses infinite will ; it is, as 
Miss Fletcher tells us, " the deification of that pecu- 
liar quality or power of which man is conscious 
within himself as directing his own acts or willing a 
course to bring about certain results." From the 
word wacin, will, are derived the terms for what we 
call " telepathy," a belief in which is nigh universal 

Origin and Contents 6i 

in primitive cults ; for intelligence or mentality ; and 
for the sacred dance.* 

While the meaning of wakaii in Dakota is well 
defined, its derivation is uncertain. It is singular 
that precisely the same word with the same meaning 
reappears in the Quichua and Aymara languages of 
the interior of Peru. It is there applied to every- 
thing which is extraordinary or immense, out of the 
course of nature, and especially to everything sacred 
or divine. It was not a deity, but expressed the 
deific power believed to be present in men, animals, 
or things, f 

The identity of the two words is probably no mere 
coincidence, nor is the one borrowed from the other. 
In Quichua wakan expresses the sound characteristic 
of any animal, as allco ivakan, the dog howls, hiiallpa 
wakan the cock crows, and this in turn is derived 
from the interjection of surprise or astonishment or 
admiration, hiia. It was that which was employed 
in the sacred invocations. 

Strange as it may seem, the English word " God " 
is traced by Aryan scholars through the Gothic guth 
to the Sanscrit verb hua to call upon, to invoke (past 
participle, hutha), the same primitive interjection in 

* Proceedings of (he American Association for the Advancement of 
Science, 1896. Sect. H. 

f On the meaning of huaca see von Tschudi, Beitriige zur Kcnnt. 
des alien Peru, p. 156 ; Bertonio, Vocab. de la Lengua Aymara, s. v. 

62 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

verbal form ; and the holy name of the Hebrews, 
Yahve, is now believed to be that of the Chaldean 
god of the earth, waters, and fertility, in whose name 
Ed, Va, or Ya/i, we recognize "a cognate interjection 
or refrain, the same which, shouted in the orgiastic 
rites, gave the name, Bacchus or lachus.' 

Turning to the island world of the Pacific we find 
through its countless groups of sunny isles the im- 
personal Divine expressed by one general term, mana. 
The natives believed in the agency of departed souls 
and also of spirits of independent origin {viii) ; but 
the supernatural power through which both acted on 
nature or events was this mana. If a man prospered 
in his affairs and gained influence in the tribe, it was 
not by his own efforts, but because he had mana ; 
precisely as pious persons among ourselves attribute 
their prosperity and that of their worthy neighbors 
to the favour of the Lord. The original meaning of 

♦The probable identity of Heb. lah with Chald. lah is acknow- 
ledged by Pinches, Sayce, and other eminent Assyriologisls (see an 
article by the former, in the Proc. of the Victorian Institute for 1895). 
That the Greek lachus is from the Chaldeo-Syrian (as his myth claims, 
referring to him as " The Assyrian stranger," etc., L. Dyer The 
Gods in Greece, \). 165) was maintained by Herodotus, Macrobius, and 
Plutarch, among the ancients, and by various modern authors. It 
can be shown, however, that YaJi as a name of God was derived from 
a sacred interjection or cry of the same phonetic value, which recurs 
repeatedly in the cults of America, Polynesia, and Australia. This 
is also true of htia or wa, the radical of the English " God." They 
are both what have been called " universal " radicals. 

Origin and Contents 63 

mana appears to be " that which is within one," and, 
later, the intelligence on mind, whence power or 
might, as the expressions of Will applied to the 
concept of universal life and motion.* 

These words, I repeat, do not convey any idea of 
personality. They are not evidences of a primitive 
monotheism, as has often been claimed. They, and 
all like them, are vague, indefinite terms for the 
supernatural, that which was inexplicable by the 
limited knowledge of the most ignorant of our 
species, f 

The media of suggestion act primarily through the 
emotions, and in the religious suggestion those emo- 
tions especially are concerned which give rise to 
thoughts concerning the super-sensuous and the 
manifestation of power. 

But none of these emotions in itself, neither fear, 

♦Codrington in Jour. Anthrop. Inst., vol. x., p. 279 ; Fornander, 
The Polynesian Race, vol. iii., pp. 225-7. In some dialects wawa has 
the special meanings, omen ; the thunder ; the breath ; the belly (i. e., 
the interior), etc. Hale gives the definition "power " as common to 
all dialects (Polynesian Lexicon, s. v.). Fornander notes the similar- 
ity to Sanscrit, mana, manu, mind, thought. 

f I have dwelt on the absence of monotheism among the American 
\nhe% in Afytks of the New World, p. 75. Dr. Washington Matthews, 
a most competent, authority, expresses the universally correct view, 
when, speaking of Mahopa, the divine conception of the Hidatsa In- 
dians, he says : " It refers to an influence or power above all things, 
but not attaching to it any ideas of personality." — Ethnography of the 
Hidatsa Indians, p. 48. 

64 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

hope, awe, wonder, nor any other, has the power to 
evoke the notion of the supernatural. It arises from 
those deeper intellectual traits which are peculiarly 

Yet it is true that such emotions are potent 
stimuli to those forms of suggestion which lead up 
to the religious feeUngs ; they are part of them, and 
what arouses and incites those, develops and strength- 
ens these ; and they thus have their place as sug- 
gestive accessories. 

To the savage, all nature testifies to the presence 
of the mysterious power which is behind its forms 
and motions. He sees the Divine everywhere. But 
from this multitude of impressions which excited 
him to religious thought we may separate a limited 
number as beyond others potent and universal. 
These are special stimuli to the religious emotions. 
They are five in number : 

1. Dreaming and allied conditions. 

2. The apprehension of Life and Death, from 
which arises the notion of the Soul. 

3. The perception of Light and Darkness. 

4. The observation of Extraordinary Exhibitions 
of Force. 

5. The impression of Vastness. 

I. A line of Lucretius asserts that " the dreams of 
men peopled the heaven with gods." We have a 

Origin and Contents 65 

right to reply that if dreams alone give us the gods, 
why are they absent from the lives of dogs, who are 
vivid dreamers? 

Certain it is, however, that among all savage tribes 
dreams are regarded as a part of the experience of 
life. To primitive man, they are real : he sees and 
hears in them as he does in his waking hours ; he 
does not distinguish between the subjective creation 
of his brain cells and objective existence. 

In what they differ from daily life, they are divine. 
They reveal the future and summon the absent. 
The Kamschatkans, we are told, gather together 
every morning to narrate their dreams and to guess 
at their interpretation. Of the Eskimos it is stated 
that their daily lives " are to a great extent guided 
by their dreams." The Bororo of Brazil take a 
dream so literally that a whole village will de- 
camp and seek a distant site, if one dreams of the 
approach of an enemy.* 

The physiological character of dreams easily ex- 
plains the superstitious attention they have received 
in all ages and nations. The absence of external im- 
pressions during sleep favours the rise of unconscious 

*Klemm, Culturgeschichte^'QA. ii., s. 338; L. M. Turner, The 
Hudson Bay Eskimos, p. 272 ; von den Steinen, Die Naiurvolker 
Zeniral-Brasiliens, p. 340. Among the Australians, both men and 
women become "doctors" or shamans by dreaming. — Curr, The 
Australian Race, vol., ii., p. 74. 

66 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

mental action into consciousness. In them memory 
is often more active than while waking; our person- 
ality seems doubled, because it has no longer the will 
to react against the throngs of varied impressions 
which arise. The emotions in sleep are excitable, and 
both fear and joy are often more intense than when 
awake. Add to this that many persons, especially 
those of nervous temperament, are subject to pecu- 
liarly vivid illusions during the moments between 
waking and sleeping, which seem to belong as much 
to the former as to the latter conditions,* and we 
have reasons enough for the part they play in primi- 
tive religions. 

There are reasons for believing that the dreams of 
ruder races are more vivid than our own, more like 
pictures and realities, f They certainly do not draw 
the line so sharply between the sights and sounds of 
sleeping and waking as we do. With wide-open 
eyes they see spectres and apparitions, such as are 
not unknown, but are ever growing scarcer, in 
civilised lands. These waking visions are assidu- 
ously cultivated, and become, as I have already said, 
the chief bond between man and divinity. :}: 

* These are called " hypnogogic hallucinations." They have been 
studied by Maury, Annales Aledico-psychologiques, tome xi., p. 252, 

f This point is discussed by Professor Granger, Worship of the 
Konians, pp. 28, sq. 

\ Bishop Calloway describes the regimen adopted to become in- 

Origin and Contents 67 

Not only by fasting, solitude, and intense ex- 
pectation centred on the expected revelation, is it 
brought into reality, but in nearly every savage tribe 
we find a knowledge of narcotic plants which were 
employed to induce strange and vivid hallucinations 
or dreams. The negroes of the Niger had their 
" fetish water," the Creek Indians of Florida their 
" black drink," for this purpose. In many parts of 
the United States the natives smoked stramonium, 
the Mexican tribes swallowed the peyotl and the 
snake-plant, the tribes of California and the Sam- 
oyeds of Siberia had found a poisonous toadstool ; 
— all to bring about communion with the Divine and 
to induce ecstatic visions.* Whatever the means 
employed, their aim was everywhere the same, and 
was directed primarily and essentially towards the 
excitation of the religious emotions, towards secur- 
ing a revelation of the will of the gods. 

Thus it came that the whole of life, waking and 
sleeping, assumed a dreamy, unreal character. The 
traveller Spix says of the forest tribes of Brazil 
that they never seem fully awake ; and a Pawnee 

spired among the Zulus, in Jour. Anthrop. Soc., vol. i., p. 175. 
Among the Dyaks of Borneo the ceremony is called nampok, and its 
conditions are : i. To be alone ; 2. To pass the night on a mountain 
top ; 3. To offer a sacrifice and call for the god. Ling Roth, 
Natives of Sarawak, vol. i., p. 1S5. 

* I have treated this question at some length in my Myths of the 
New World, p. 314, and Nagualisni, p. 7, sq. 

68 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

war song begins by an appeal to the gods to decide 
if this life itself is aught but a dream.* 

The ancient Mexicans had developed the doctrine 
that this life is a dream and that death is the awaken- 
ing, the passing into a living condition. They spoke 
of dying as the appearance of the dawn, and the 
approach of light. This is closely akin to that 
doctrine of mdyd, or the unreality of the duality of 
the subject and object, which "is the very life of the 
primitive [East] Indian philosophy." f 

The influence which such a view must have 
exerted on the religious thought of a nation is 

2. The question has been discussed by some 
philosophers whether the idea of Life is anterior in 
the human mind to that of Death, Had they 
studied the beliefs of primitive peoples, their doubts 
would have disappeared. The savage knows not 
death as a natural occurrence. His language has no 
word meaning "to die," but only "to be killed." 
Disease is an unseen shaft, or the work of a malign- 
ant sorcerer. To him, all things live and live 
forever. Each bird, each bush, each rock has its 

* I have given a translation of it in Essays of an Americanist, p. 


f A. E. Gough, Philosophy of the Upanishads, p. 237. The 
Mexican adjurations referred to are given by Sahagun, Historia de 
Nueva Espafia, lib. x. , cap. 29. 

Origin and Contents 69 

own vital principle. By reason of the consciousness 
of his own living Self, he imputes life to all around 
him, but in a higher degree and of some rarer 
quality to those existences which he holds as his 
deities. His god is supremely a living god, the 
source of Life, its creator, preserver, and sustainer. 

If we seek the recondite meaning hidden behind 
the two words which throughout Polynesia expressed 
in its most general sense the concept of the Divine, 
to, and atua, we discover that it is in both " the 
central cause or essentiality of Life." * So among 
the Indians of Michoacan the epithet of the chief 
goddess of their cult was, "The Sustainer of Life"; 
the highest divinity of the Aztecs was TonacatecutH, 
"■ God of Our Life " ; and in the Muskoghean tribes 
His name was "The Master of Life." 

So full, I say, was the mind of primitive man with 
the vision of universal and immortal life, that to him 
there was no such thing as death. The fact, indeed, 
remained. The tree was shrivelled by the lightning, 
the brute fell by the arrow, man himself gasped his 
last breath and lay an inert mass. The loved child, 
the warrior hero, passed out of sight to the unseen 

But not forever! No! They hovered around the 

*\V. W. Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, pp. 28, 34. 
The concrete meaning of both words is pith, kernel, core, centre, etc. 

70 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

familiar spot, they visited the living in dreams, their 
voices were heard in the rustling leaves and the 
falling waters. Not only men, but all things lived 
again. In the mythology of the Vitians there is a 
heaven even for cocoanuts! To the Kamschat- 
kans the smallest flies have souls which are 

This is the doctrine of souls, the source of those 
innumerable beliefs and rites which are centred 
around the sepulchre, so solemn, so profoundly 
significant, that many writers have maintained that 
" religion began, when the living thought seriously 
of the dead " ; that " all religions have crystallised 
around the tomb " ; and that in the propitiation of 
departed souls, in the worship of the spirits of 
ancestors, and in the preparation in this life for 
another beyond the grave, the whole aim and 
essence of religion are embraced, f 

I have already said that this is a hasty assertion, 
for there are religions which recognise a soul scarcely 
or at all ; but they are not of a primitive character. :j: 

♦Hale, Ethnography of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, p. 55; 
Klemni, Culturgcschichte , Bd. ii., s. 315 ; after Stoll. The Algon- 
kian myth relates that the hero-god Nanabojou could converse with 
the spirits of all things, with trees, flowers, butterflies, the thunder, 
etc. (Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 113). 

f Elysce Reclus, Le Primitif d'Australie, p. 232. 

X The Greeks had but vague notions of an after life, and Professor 
Schrader remarks: "The cult of the dead has no place in the 

Origin and Contents 71 

In the latter, some such belief is universally shown 
either by the treatment of the corpse, or the modes 
of mourning for the dead, or by myths concerning 
the life and actions of the departed. 

It is generally held that the soul is multiple, two, 
three, or four being assigned to a person. One or 
more of these may perish with the body, or shortly 
afterwards ; but one at least survives indefinitely, 
and concerns itself with the doings of those it has 
left behind in life. Its powers for good and evil are 
increased by its translation to another sphere of 
existence ; and to secure its assistance, or at least its 
neutrality, is the aim of that cult of the departed 
souls and of the spirits of ancestors which is so 
widely defined in primitive conditions. 

They are not identical, and we find in many tribes 
much attention paid to conciliating the souls of the 
dead where ancestor worship is unknown. In fact, 
the former is the older and more general observance. 
The aim is to get rid of the soul, to put it to rest or 
send it on its journey to a better land, otherwise it 
will annoy the survivors.* 

Homeric world." Prehist. Antiqs. of the Aryan Peoples, p. 424. 
The "indigetes dii " of the Romans were rather heroes than 
divinities, though Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, lib. i., cap. 64, asserts that 
they were worshipped. 

* The most satisfactory recent study on the worship of ancestors 
and of the dead, is that by Dr. S. R. Steinmetz in his Ethnologische 
Studien zur ersien Entwicklung der Strafe, Bd. i., ss. 141-287 
(Leiden, 1894). 

72 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

In many primitive tribes, therefore, there is little 
fear of death. The soul leaves the body in sleep to 
wander over the earth, and the only difference of 
death is that it does not return in time. More than 
this, the soul of the living can visit the realms of the 
dead. The Comanches knew of men who had spent 
two days looking at the white tents of the encamp- 
ment of souls far west under the setting sun ; and 
the Zufii mothers who had lost their little darlings 
are reconciled by being cast into a deep sleep, during 
which they go and see them in the mystic world be- 
yond. So also believe the Austrahans and number- 
less other tribes.* 

We need not look for any definiteness of statement 
as to what the soul is. In many tribes the word for 
it is akin to that for breath, as in our own express- 
ion, "the breath of life." Frequently it is identified 
with the shadow, as among the Zulus of Africa, and 
the Eskimos, Algonquins, and Quiches of America. 
Others, as the Mincopies (Andaman Islands), think 
they see it in the reflection of the body in still water 

* Clark, Indian Sign Language, pp. 121, 165, 199, 207, etc.; 
Howitt in your. Anthrop. Institute, vol. xiii., p. i86. If one 
wakes a sleeper suddenly, he may die, as his vagrant soul may not 
get back in time. Von den Steinen, Naturvolker Zent7-al-Brasiliens, 
p. 510. In all these primitive views the real soul is regarded as 
merely a tenant of the body (not a function or the result of 
functions), as it is to-day in the popular religions of civilised 

Origin and Contents 73 

or a mirror. The Australians assert that it is a mist, 
fog, or smoke, etc. 

These ideas are, of course, material. They impute 
to the soul similar wants to that of the corporeal 
man. It desires a dwelling, needs food, takes visible 
forms, and the like ; but also it is endowed with 
faculties transcending those it possessed in the flesh, 
and these may be directed to the benefit or the in- 
jury of the survivors. Therefore its wants should 
be gratified, and its temper concihated by offerings 
and appropriate funeral rites.* 

3. I turn now to a perception of the primitive 

man, a contrast of impressions on his senses, more 

potent, I believe, than even the immeasurable one 

of Life and Death. It is Light and Darkness. This 

universal, ever recurring change in nature controlled 

all his actions, and reacted as a powerful stimulus 

on his religious emotions. I could almost be willing 

* The fear of ghosts in civilised countries is the survival of a wide- 
spread, ancient belief in the malevolence of souls. I have found no 
instance of this more striking than among the Finns. They believed 
that the souls of the dead lie in wait for the living, in order to kill 
and eat them, especially their hearts and lungs, so that the slain 
could not live again. The ghosts did not spare their nearest rela- 
tives, and the story is told of an old man, who warned his beloved 
young wife not to follow his corpse to the grave, or his ghost would 
eat her. She disobeyed, and saved herself only by pronouncing the 
name of God. Cong. Internat. d' Archeologie de Moscou, Tom. ii., 
p. 316. In about one third of known savage tribes, the ghosts are 
considered kind and friendly to the survivors. See Steinmetz's 
analysis in his Entwicklung der Strafe, Bd. i. , s. 142, sq. 

74 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

to subscribe to the expression of a German writer 
that "the adoration of Light was the foundation of 
all religion."* The rude Htanies of paganism all 
over the world seem to join in the solemn chant of 
the Evangelist — " God is Light, and in Him is no 
darkness at all." 

We may begin with the Australian Blacks, who 
averred the supreme divinity lives in keladi, eternal 
brightness, up above the sky. His name is Baianie, 
meaning "the maker" or "the cutter out," as one 
cuts out patterns from a skin. He sees and knows 
all things. f 

Through most of Polynesia, the chief deity was 
Ka-ne, which means sunlight, the opposite of dark- 
ness, and is allied to the verb kanea, to see. An- 
other name for Ka-ne is Tangaloa, the lord of light. 
The colour red is sacred to him, he was portrayed 
with long blond hair, and children who had light 
hair or were albinos were deemed his progeny. 
When the fair-skinned Europeans first landed on the 
islands they were called the " children of Tangaloa.":}: 

* Friedrich Freihold, Die Lebensgeschichte der Menschhcit, Bd. i., 

s. 35- 

f Baiame is from the verb bhai. Jotir. Anthrop. Institute, vol. 
viii., p. 242. The " Nurali " of the Murray River tribes is also an 
embodiment of light. B. B. Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, vol. I., 

p. 423- 

\ Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 13 ; Fomander, The Polynesian Race, 

vol. iii., p. 153. 

Origin and Contents 75 

Sometimes the myths represent Tangaloa as the 
son of Vatea (Avatea, Wakea), "noon" or "noon- 
day." He was father of gods and man, half man, 
half fish, to typify land and water, and it was said 
of him that his right eye was the sun, his left the 
moon. So far removed was he that no worship was 
ever paid him, and no representation made of him.* 

If we turn to the extremely savage inhabitants 
of the Andaman Islands, a remnant of the ancient, 
almost pygmy, black race of Southern Asia, we find 
that their supreme being is Puluga, the creator of 
all things, who was never born and will never die. 
He is invisible, but of the nature of light ; he lives 
in the sky, and placed there the sun and moon. He 
is omniscient, but only while it is day, when he can 
see. f 

As the red rays of the morning and evening light 
caused in Polynesia all things red to be sacred to 
Tangaloa, so among the Hottentots of South Africa 
their supreme being was named Tsuni Goab, the 
red light of the Dawn, who in mythology stood in 
opposition to Gaunah, the Dark Sky. j^ 

This worship of light has several constant associa- 
tions in religious thought which find expression in 
the myth and cult. 

*Gill, udi supra, pp. 3, 17, 44. 

f E. W. Man, in your. Anthrop. Institute, vol. xii., p. 166. 

JTh. Hahn, Tsuni \Goam, pp. 124, 126. 

76 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

In nature, light is a potent stimulus of organic 
growth, and this fact, obscurely apprehended by the 
primitive mind, led to the equivalence of Light and 
Life. Light as the vital principle recurs in most 
mythologies. As we obtain light artificially from 
fire, whose general warmth also is akin to that of 
the living as contrasted to the dead body, the soul 
or living element was allied to flame. In ancient 
German mythology the soul was called a torch or 
taper (J. Grimm), and in the beliefs of the Polyne- 
sians and American Indians the ghosts of the dead 
usually appear as luminous masses.'^ All will re- 
member the words of Othello — 

"Put out the light, and then, — put out the light ! " 

A second association of light was with the sky, in 
day the home of the bright sun, at night where glit- 
ter a thousand points of brilliancy. 

In most mythologies the sky is supposed to be a 
solid, shining arch or dome which covers the earth 
like a roof. Upon it, out of sight to mortal eyes, 
live the gods. It constitutes the " Hill of Heaven," 
the celestial mountain upon which are the homes of 
the divine beings. So it is oft likened to some 
known terrestial elevation, as in Greek mythology, 

* Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. i86 ; Jour. Anthrop. Institute, 
vol. X., p. 285. 

Origin and Contents "j*^ 

Mt. Olympus, and in that of India, Mt. Meru. Such 
sacred hills are mentioned by most of the American 
tribes.* In Polynesian myth it was "the blue 
mountain, the land of the divine water," a fluid of 
such vital virtue that were even a dead man sprin- 
kled with it he would come to life. On the island 
of Mangaia a certain hill was pointed out which in 
old times propped up the sky. f 

The Tehuelches of Patagonia relate that the 
Creator first moulded men and all animals on the 
" Hill of God " and then set them loose to people 
the earth. The natives of Southern Borneo assign 
to their supreme divinity Atala a home in the high- 
est heaven, on the shore of the " celestial lake, 
moved by the Moon and surrounding the Sun." 
Homi, the high heaven, is the deity of the Hotten- 
tots, who pours the rains, blows the wind, and sends 
heat and cold on earth. :j; 

Thus it is that everywhere the Sky God is also the 
High God. This blending of the ideas of life and 
light with the sky led to another and obvious asso- 
ciation which has left its mark on every religion, 
primitive or developed. The sky is, in direction, 

* Myths of the New World, pp. 97, 165, etc. 

•f- Fornander, Polynesian Race, vol. i., p. 78; Gill, Myths and 
Songs, p. 18. 

X Musters, Among the Patagonians, ch. v. ; Ling Roth, Natives of 
Sarawak, vol. ii., App., p. clxx. ; Hahn, Tsuni \ Goain, p. 37. 

78 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

above us. The god of the sky is therefore the god 
on high. He is the one who dwells above, our lord 
in the heaven. 

This he is in all mythologies. Among the Indians 
of the plains he is (or, It is) " the great medicine 
above" and in the sign language, to indicate this, when 
the sign is made for " medicine " (mystery) the 
finger is pointed to the zenith.* The Puluga of the 
Andamanese " lives in the sky." Tangaloa is ad- 
dressed as " He above in the heavens " ; the Finnish 
Ukko is also called " The Navel of the Sky," and 
so on. f 

Examples are innumerable. But what need of 
collecting them ? Do we not ourselves constantly 
use the adjective the Supreme Being, for God, which 
means simply the highest being? And did not the 
founder of our religion forbid his followers to swear 
by the sky, giving as the reason that it was the 
throne of God, who sitteth upon it ? :{: 

This idea runs through the whole of his teachings. 
In the Gospel of Matthew the same term, ovpavios, 
or, iv roi5 ovpavois as a descriptive term of divinity, 

* Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 189. 

f Castren observes : " Es hat innerhalb der weitgestreckten Gran- 
zen Asiens kaum ein einziges Volk gegeben, welches nicht den Ilim- 
mel verehrt hatte." — Finnish he Alythologie, p. 14. lie might as well 
have said, " the habitable globe " instead of Asia only. 

X Matthew, v., 34. 

Origin and Contents 79 

is applied not less than eighty-eight times ; and in the 
first clause of the Lord's Prayer, it is to " Our Father 
in the Skies," that the invocation is addressed. 

Strange that this very word olpavoSy in Sanscrit 
Uaruna, is that which, in the primitive religion of 
the Aryan peoples, was applied to the most exalted 
of their gods, to him " whose realm is above us," 
" the very strong," " the shining one," " the king of 
sky and earth," " creator of all, the earth-enveloping 

What more striking evidence do we wish of the 
indissoluble unity of religious thought, no matter 
what its stage of development, in all centuries and 
all races ? 

In the Polynesian mythology, Tangaloa, the bright 
daylight, has as his brother, Rongo, the god of dark- 
ness and night. Tangaloa is fair-haired and light in 
hue, Rongo is black in hair and skin. Tangaloa is 
beneficent, the dispenser of good, and inventor of 
the arts of peace ; Rongo is the fomenter of strife, 
the god of war and author of bloodshed. In ac- 
cordance with these, all the gods were classed in two 
orders, "dwellers in day," and " dwellers in night." f 

The contrast which is here presented prevails 
throughout early cults. The night, when man, de- 

* Hopkins, Religions of India, pp. 62, seq. 

f Gill, ubi supra, pp. 10-14 ; Sir George Grey, Polynesian Myth- 
ology, ch. i. 

8o Religions of Primitive Peoples 

prived of light and sight, becomes the prey of 
stealthy beasts, was everywhere considered the time 
when the unseen powers of destruction are let loose 
and the malevolent agencies of the spirit-world run 

This is one of the most primitive of religious be- 
liefs and is discovered in the rudest tribes. The 
Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego say that the invisible 
spirits go about at night ; the Australian tribes every- 
where manifested a deep dread of the darkness, not 
like the unconscious shuddering of a child on enter- 
ing a dark room, but because they believed spirits 
walked in the gloom seeking whom they could de- 
vour. It is then, said they, that Cuchi (Kootche) 
goes forth, either in the form of a snake or some 
nocturnal bird. He it is who causes sickness among 
men. The thunder is the growl of his anger, the 
whirlwinds his breath, and the aurora australis the 
fitful light of his camp fire.* 

Associated with the gloom of night, was the dark- 
ness of the storm, which in many mythologies is con- 
trasted with the sunshine in some divine struggle. 
Endless are the tales and rites which bear upon this 
contest in early religions. Indeed, according to 
some, they are the chief staple of all mythologies.f 

* B. Brough Smith, Aborigenes of Victoria, vol. i., p. 457. 
\ Notably by Prof. F. L. W. Schwartz in his numerous works, and 
in his contributions to the Zeitschrift fiir Ethnologic^ etc. 

Origin and Contents 8i 

4. I have already mentioned that the idea of 
Power is one of the first to be connected with deity. 
The god is one who can do more than man. Espe- 
cially any sudden and striking display of force, either 
in the material or immaterial world, stimulates the 
religious sense. The historian Buckle claimed that 
the inhabitants of countries subject to earthquakes 
are peculiarly superstitious. In myths and names, 
the hurricane of the tropics, the storm-winds of higher 
latitudes, indeed all sudden and tremendous out- 
breaks of natural violence, are regarded as exhibi- 
tions of divine Power. 

Notably is this the case with the thunder storm. 
That manifestation of tremendous power has excited 
the religious feelings of all races. Moreover, the 
highly charged electrical atmosphere exerts a special 
influence on the nervous system, predisposing it to 
emotional outbreaks. The roll and reverberation of 
the thunder, the zigzag flash and destructive blow of 
the lightning and the roar of the tempest, combine 
to present the phenomenon as a manifest display of 
supernatural power. Hence in innumerable tribes 
the thunder god was identified with, or was the peer 
of, the highest in the Pantheon.* The same is true 

* The Hebrew name Jahve (Jehovah) is derived by some from the 

verb "to thunder." In the Vedas, Parjanja, the Thunderer, is a 

conspicuous figure. Mumpal, the Thunder, say the Australians, 

created all things. {Jieise der Fregatte Novara, Anthrop. Theil, s. 


82 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

of potent and coercive mental traits. Their possess- 
ors are regarded as partaking of the deific being to 
a greater extent than others, or even actually divine. 
It is not merely that they excite the emotion of 
fear. That is a shallow interpretation of the psychic 
process. Underlying it is the deeper suggestion of 
energy, of action, of the spiritual mastery of material 
existence. This is as real, though not so clear, in the 
mind of the savage as in that of the philosopher. 

This is also seen in the names and titles applied to 
the concept of Divinity by all nations. They speak 
of God "All-mighty," the "Omnipotent Ruler"; 
and ever the attribute of indefinite power belongs 
to the great gods. 

In early religions the manifestations of power are 
personified as single deities. We thus find in native 
American myths the figures of Huracan, the hurri- 
cane ; Huemac, the Strong Hand, god of earthquakes, 
and numberless thunder, lightning, and storm gods. 

5. It has been remarked by a German historian 
that the richest development of early poetry has 
been found among tribes dwelling by the ocean or 
among mountains ; and another writer has claimed 
that the most rapid development of religions has 

ix.) Among the Bechuanas, " When it thunders, everyone trembles, 
and each asks the other, ' Is there anyone among us who has devoured 
the wealth of others ?' " (Calloway, Relig. System of the Amazulu, 
p. 117). Any number of other examples could be added. 

Origin and Contents S$ 

taken place where the broad expanses of deserts or 
seas have stimulated the mind to contemplation of 
spacial magnitude on earth and in the sky. * 

The languages of primitive peoples bear traces of 
this. In the Aztec tongue any wide level prairie is 
called teotlalli, godland ; and the ocean, teoatl, god- 
water ; among the Peruvians the term huaca, holy, 
is synonymous with " vast " or " immense." With 
the Polynesians taula, the ocean space, is the home 
of the gods and where the souls go at death. The 
traveller Castren once stood on the shore of the 
Arctic Ocean with a Samoyed. Turning to the na- 
tive, he asked, " where is Num ? " (their chief god). 
*' There," instantly replied the Samoyed, waving his 
hand toward where " loomed the dark broad sea."f 

In many cults this idea is attempted expression 
by assigning to deities hugeness of size. The colos- 
sal stone images of Easter Island, the huge statues 
of the Maoris, are endeavours to present it to the 

In more developed faiths the same tendency pre- 
vails. The Buddhists rival each other in construct- 
ing enormous statues of Sakya Muni ; in the Sanscrit 
Upanishads, Aditi, who represents the endless visible 
expanse, is termed " mother and father of all gods 

* Klemm, Culturgeschichte, Bd. i., s. 64; Honegger, Cultur- 
geschichte, Bd. i., s. 332. 

f Castren, Finnische Mythologie, p. 17. 

84 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

and men, the substance of whatever has been or 
shall be born " ^ ; and according to some Mahom- 
medan writers, God is so great that it is 72,000 days' 
journey between his eyes ! 

Such are some of the potent stimuli which stir the 
depths of man's psychical nature, awakening in him 
the belief in unknown powers far beyond his ability 
to measure or to cope with. Not from any conscious 
act of intelligence, not from any process of voluntary 
reasoning, is that belief born, but from the unknown, 
the unplumbed abyss of the sub-conscious mind. 

Let not this be considered as something degrading 
to the religious conceptions themselves. Though 
all are drawn from out the human spirit itself, and 
are nowise the direct revelations their believers think 
them, yet who dare measure the height and the 
depth of the sub-conscious intelligence ? It draws 
its knowledge from sources which elude scientific re- 
search, from the strange powers which we perceive 
in insects and other lower animals, almost, but not 
wholly, obliterated in the human line of organic de- 
scent ; and from others, now merely nascent or em- 
bryonic, new senses, destined in some far off aeon to 
endow our posterity with faculties as wondrous to us 
as would be sight to the sightless. 

*Gough, Philosophy of the Upanishads, p. 17. 

Origin and Contents 85 

More than this: the teachings of the severest 
science tell us that Matter is, in its last analysis, 
Motion, and that motion is nought else than Mind^; 
and who dare deny that in their unconscious func- 
tions our minds may catch some overtones, as it 
were, from the harmonies of the Universal Intellig- 
ence thus demonstrated by inductive research, and 
vibrate in unison therewith ? 

* I refer especially to the results of the physical investigations of 
Helmholtz, and to their logical application to mental science, by 
George T. Romanes, in his Alind and Motion; to the position of 
Prof. Paulsen in his Introduction to Philosophy ; and to such lines 
of thought as are presented in Professor Dolbear's Matter, Ether, and 

Primitive Religious Expression : in the Word. 

Contents : — An Echo Myth — The Power of Words — Their Magical 
Potency — The Curse — Power Independent of Meaning — The 
Name as an Attribute — The Sacred Names — The Ineffable 
Name — " Myrionomous " Gods — " Theophorous " Names — Sug- 
gestion and Repetition as Stimulants — I. The Word to the gods: 
Prayer — Its Forms, Contents, and Aims — II. The Word from 
the gods : The Law and the Prophecy — The Ceremonial Law, or 
tabu — Examples — Divination and Prediction — III. The Word 
concerning the gods : The Myths — Their Sources chiefly Psychic 
— Some from Language — Examples — Transference — Similarities 
— The Universal Mythical Cycles : i. The Cosmical Concepts ; 
2. The Sacred Numbers ; 3. The Drama of the Universe ; Cre- 
ation and Deluge Myths ; 4. The Earthly Paradise ; 5. The 
Conflict of Nature ; 6. The Returning Saviour ; 7. The Jour- 
ney of the Soul — Conclusion as to these Identities. 

THERE is a pleasant myth told by the inhabit- 
ants of the island of Mangaia in the South 
Pacific. When the Creator of all things had ordered 
the solid land to rise from the primeval waters, he 
walked abroad to survey his work. " It is good," 
said he aloud to himself. " Good," answered an 
echo from a neighbouring hill. " What ! " exclaimed 
the Creator. " Is some one here already ? Am not 
I first?" "I first," answered the echo. Therefore 


Primitive Religious Expression 87 

the Mangaians assert that earliest of all existences 
is the bodiless Voice. * It is their way of saying, 
" In the beginning was the Word." 

Not only may we call it the first, it is also the 
mightiest of the unseen agencies which mould man 
and his destinies. 

" Power over men," remarks Count Tolstoi in one 
of his essays, " lies not in material force, but in 
thought and its clear expression." Disraeli, that 
subtlest of diplomats, once said, "We govern men 
with — words." 

No idea can be clearly conveyed to another unless 
there is a word to express it. Inward thought and 
outward utterance are the correlated conditions of 
intelligent advancement. The spoken word evokes 
in the mind of the hearer the picture, the emotion, 
the reasoning, which is occupying our own. A thou- 
sand minds are brought instantly to bear on the 
same thought by the words in the mouth of one. I 
cannot place too hif^h the instant and magical effect 
of the word. 

Not only does it convey a new thought to the 
mind, but it is itself the begetter of thought. It is a 

* Related in Gill's Myths and Songs of the South Pacific. M. van 
Ende, in his Histoire Naturelle de la Croyance, p. 83, sq., has some 
suggestive remarks on sound as regarded by primitive nations as a 
mark of life. Hence, their myths of brooks, trees, etc., as conscious 

88 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

seed sown, which grows and branches, bearing flower 
and fruit, beauteous and everlasting, or noxious and 

Through the faculty of speech, social life becomes 
possible ; on it depends the sweet interchange of 
souls ; by it we are led to think in unison ; through 
it we share the meditations of the philosopher, and 
the inspired visions of the poet and the prophet. 

If there is any way in which the spirits of the sky 
and air, the hosts of the Divine, can touch and 
\v;ach our souls, it must be chiefly through the 
spoken word. 

Every religion of the world bears witness to this. 
There is no other element in them in which all join 
with like unanimity. From the rudest to the ripest 
they echo the verse of the evangelist philosopher 
when he wrote : " In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, and the Word was 

The highest teachings of them all are expressed in 
the formula : " And the word of the Lord came 
saying — " 

We may go back to the earliest forms of the 
ancient Egyptian religion, and we find the doctrine 
that the man who had learned and could pronounce 
the divine words revealed through the god Thoth 
(Thought, Mind), by their utterance would be ele- 

Primitive Religious Expression 89 

vated to the god, and be blended with him, as one 
and inseparable. " The primary idea concerning the 
ritual formulas was assimilation to God, brought 
about by the power of the words themselves." * 

Probably in all primitive faiths the word is regarded 
as a magical power in itself. In Egypt it was be- 
lieved that by words the most powerful of the gods 
could be made obedient to the will of man. By 
them, as exorcisms or incantations everywhere, de- 
mons could be loosed or bound, and spirits sum- 
moned from the vasty deep. The stock in trade of 
the Indian medicine-man is principally his store of 
exorcisms, and among the Goras of North-Western 
India any one can become a priest who will learn the 
formulas which compel the demons, f 

Our word " charm " comes from the Latin carmen, 
the sacred rhythmic formula, such as Virgil averred 
could by its occult power drag the moon from the 

"Carmina vel caelo possunt deducere lunam." 

There were such songs scarcely less potent among 

* Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 96. 

f E. F. Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 60. "Nothing more 
colors Hindu life," writes Mr. Walhouse, " than the belief in the 
efficacy of mantras — forms of prayer or powerful words, by which 
all the relations of life may he influenced, and even the gods may be 
bound." — Jour, Anthrop, Inst., vol. xiv., p. 189. 

90 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

the Australian Blacks, which could summon the rain 
in dry seasons or cause it to cease in floods.'^ 

No demon, however malevolent, can resist, in their 
belief, the power of the right word. The natives of 
New South Wales say that an evil spirit in the shape 
of a dwarf with monstrous head roams the woods at 
night and devours those whom he meets. But if the 
man utters the word " Boonbolong," the dwarf passes 
on his way and does not harm him. f 

When Jesus was in Capernaum, and at his com- 
mand an unclean spirit had gone out of a man pos- 
sessed, the multitude said one to the other, — rig 
iGTi ovTog Xoyog, " What is this Word, by the au- 
thority and might of which this man casts out 
devils?" (Luke iv., 36.) They believed he used 
some cabalistic formula of exorcism which con- 
strained the demons to obey his will. 

Nowhere did the Word display its terrible effect 
more fearfully than in the curse or imprecation. In 
ancient Assyria, writes Professor Sayce, '* The power 
of the viamit, or curse, was such that the gods them- 
selves could not transgress it." \ Not only did it 
unloose the demons of destruction, but it constrained 

*CuiT, The Australian Race, vol. i., p. 48. 

\ Report of Com. of N. South Wales to ike Columbian Exposition, 

P- 7. 

:j: Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 309. 

Primitive Religious Expression 91 

the gods against their will, changing them from pro- 
tectors to enemies.* 

Amid savage tribes, in undoubted and repeated 
instances, the curse kills as certainly as a knife. 
Among the western Indians of our country, when a 
medicine-man "gathers his medicine," that is, rises 
to the full height of inspired volition, and utters a 
withering curse on his antagonist, commanding him 
to die, the latter knows all hope is lost. Sometimes 
he drops dead on the spot, or at best lingers through 
a few days of misery, f The Australians believe that 
the curse of a potent magician will kill at the dis- 
tance of a hundred miles. :{: 

Not only is the word thus mighty in the unseen 
world, but it is itself the very efflux and medium of 
the divine power itself. 

Thus in the drama of creation recorded in the first 
chapter of Genesis we read : " And God said, * Light, 
be,' and light was " ; and in the corresponding myth 
of the Quiche Indians of Central America, the maker 
of the world calls forth, Uleu ! Earth ! and at the 
word the solid land grew forth. § 

Sir George Grey relates a story that in New Zea- 

*Lenonnant, Chaldean Magic, p. 63. 
f Brinton, Myths of the Ne-v World, p. 318. 
X The appropriate rite thus to destroy an enemy is described by 
Curr, The Australian Race, vol. ii., p. 610. 
\ Popol Vuh, le Livre Sacr^ des Quiches^ p. 10. 

9^ Religions of Primitive Peoples 

land there was a huge, carved wooden head, which 
could speak, and by the dreadful might of its words 
slew all who approached it. But when by superior 
magic its voice was reduced to a whisper, its power 
was gone and it was destroyed. * 

It is to be noted that the magical influence of the 
word is mdependent of its meaning. It is distinctly 
not the idea, image, or truth which it conveys to 
which is ascribed its efHcacy. On the contrary, the 
most potent of all words are those which have 
no meaning at all or of which the sense has been 

This is constantly seen in the formulas of savage 
tribes. They preserve archaisms of language no 
longer understood by those who utter them, and in 
other instances they are obviously made up of 
syllables strung together without regard to intelligi- 

The same fact is abundantly shown in the caba- 
listic jargon of classical and mediaeval diviners, and 
in the charms drawn from contemporary folklore. 
Indeed, the famous cabalist, Pico de Mirandola, 
asserts that a word without meaning has most in- 
fluence over the demons. 

Not only one or a few words may be thus unintel- 
ligible, but long communications may be in articu- 
late sounds conveying no thought wliatever. This 

* Polynesian Mythology, p. 284. 

Primitive Religious Expression 93 

is the "gift of tongues," the power to speak in 
unknown languages. 

It is common in savage life. Many of the im- 
portant chants at the sacred ceremonies are mere 
iterations of meaningless syllables. The idea would 
seem to be that what men cannot understand, the 
gods do ; or else, that it is the god expressing him- 
self through human organs but in a speech unknown 
to human ears. Bishop Calloway says that the 
charm songs of the Zulus are often quite unintel- 
ligible to themselves * ; and this is one of many 

Of all words, the most sacred is the Name. In 
primitive thought, the personal name of an indi- 
vidual is not merely an attribute, it is an integral 
part of his Self, his Ego. The Eskimos say that a 
man consists of three parts, his body, his soul, and 
his name, and of these the last mentioned alone 
achieves immortality. This seems very advanced. 
Most of our ambitious men appear to think more of 
rendering their names than their souls worthy of im- 
mortality. Very generally, the name was associated 
with the personal guardian spirit, derived from it 
or indicating it, and hence received a ceremonial 
sanctity, t 

* Religious System of the Amazulu, p. 413. 

f The expression in the Algonkin tongue for a person of the same 
name is nind owiawina, "He is another myself" (Cuoq, Lexiqut 
Algonquine, p. 113). 

94 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

As being a part of oneself, injury or contumely 
heaped upon a name reacted upon the individual 
who bore it, and even life could be destroyed in this 

For this reason, throughout America the natives 
rarely disclosed their real appellations, but were 
designated by nicknames. In Australia some tribes 
were so cautious that the young men on entering 
adult life renounced the names by which they had 
been known and assumed no other ; while a woman 
preserved indeed her appellation, but no one except 
her husband was entitled to pronounce it. * The 
Dyaks take the prudent precaution, after an at- 
tack of illness, to change their names ; so that the 
demon who sent the sickness may not recognise 
them, and continue his malevolent pursuit, f 

In Polynesia, where the name was not thus con- 
cealed, it could be applied, according to the cere- 
monial law, only to the person, although it was 
generally a common noun. Hence arose the curious 
custom called tcpi. All words which formed part 
of the name of the chieftain, and all syllables of 
other words which had a similar sound were dropped 
from the language and others substituted for them 
during his lifetime. Thus, forty or fifty of the most 

* Curr, ubi supra, p. 246. 

f Ling Roth, Natives of Sarawak, vol. i., p. 288. 

Primitive Religious Expression 95 

common terms of the language would drop out of 
use at once, and as many more be materially changed 
in sound, to the great annoyance of missionaries and 
visitors. * 

The Kamschatkans were so particular that they 
would not name the bear or wolf, for these animals 
understood the language of men, and would be 
offended at such familiarity ! f 

Even if it does not hear, the power for good or 
evil which a being has, can, in primitive opinion, 
be communicated through its name. For that 
reason the priest known as the fiame^i dialis among 
the Romans would not only avoid touching a dog 
or bear, but he would not pronounce their names, 
lest he should be contaminated ! And to this day a 
Mohammedan, if he pronounces the word for " hog," 
will spit, that his mouth may not be defiled by the 
name of the unclean beast. 

Even more universal was the avoidance of the 
names of the dead. This prevailed throughout 
Africa, Australia, Tasmania, Polynesia, and Amer- 
ica. The reason was, that the name was held to be 
a part of the spirit of the departed, and to pronounce 
it would disturb the rest of the grave, and probably 

* H. Hale, Ethtiography of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, p. 

f Klemm, Culturgeschichte, Bd. ii., p. 329. 

96 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

indeed bring the perturbed spirit to the circle of 
auditors. * 

If such was the case with the names of men and 
beasts, how sacred must be the names of the gods ! 

This is an extraordinary feature, common to the 
rudest superstitions of savage and the most devel- 
oped faiths of civilised lands, and it has for its basis 
the conception of the name as a real attribute, a 
part of the Self. 

" In all the religions of ancient Asia," writes 
Lenormant, " the mysterious Name was considered 
a real and divine being, who had a personal exist- 
ence and exclusive power over both nature and the 
world of spirits." f 

In the name dwelt the essential power of the 
deity. An Egyptian magical formula, placed in 
the mouth of a god, reads : 

" I am the elect of millions of years. 
Were my name spoken on the bank of a river, it would 
be consumed ; 

* This subject has been discussed by Andree, Ethnographische 
Parallclen, pp. 165-184, and other writers. On the "name soul" 
among the American Indians I have collected material in Myths of 
the New World, p. 277, sq. Most American and Australian tribes 
would not name the dead. On the other hand, in the robust religion 
of the ancient Germans, the names of the loved departed and of great 
chiefs were shouted out at the banquets, and a horn drained to their 
minni, affectionate memory. J. Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. 
i., p. 59. 

f Chaldean Magic, p. 104. 

Primitive Religious Expression 97 

Were it uttered on earth, fire would burst from the 
ground." * 

The knowledge of this name by another enabled 
him to exert a power over the god himself. That 
by naming a demon, he can be forced to appear, was 
a cardinal principle of ancient magic. " The list of 
divine names possessed by the Roman pontiffs in 
their indigitamoita was their most efficacious magical 
instrument, laying at their mercy all the forces of the 
spirit world." f 

For this reason, the gods of ancient Egypt sedu- 
lously concealed their names, and we cannot doubt 
that it was the fear of some such subjection of their 
deity through the malicious use of his name, which 
led the early Jews to conceal it so well that it is now 
lost. It was the same with the Semitic Arabians. 
Instead of the true divine name, they substituted 
Allah, the Mighty One, so that now the original is 
conjectural or unknown. 

This extends to the rudest tribes. The African 
traveller Holub says that the actual name of the 
god of the Marutse and allied tribes along the Zam- 
besi river is Njambe ; but to avoid revealing this, 
they employ the term Molemo, " He above." 
Among the south-eastern Australian tribes their 

* The original is in the Turin papyrus, 
f Granger, Worship of the Romans, p. 277. 

98 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

leading deity is Turramulun (the One-legged), who 
lives ill the sky. His name is never revealed to 
women, nor to youths before their initiation to 
manhood. * 

The Choctaw Indians regarded the name of their 
highest divinity as self-existing, essential, and un- 
speakable. Therefore, when it was necessary to 
refer to him, they adopted a circumlocution, for, 
says their historian, "according to their fixed stand- 
ard of speech, had they made any nearer approach 
to the beloved Name, it would have been reckoned 
a profanation." f 

How completely this notion has survived among 
ourselves is shown by the second clause of that 
prayer on which we have all been brought up, " Hal- 
lowed be Thy Name." But how few who repeat it 
reflect that the name referred to, whatever it was, 
is now through long concealment totally lost ! 

Thus we see that the doctrine of " the ineffable 
Name " is the common property of savage and cul- 
tured faiths. 

From the misuse of the name to compel the obed- 
ience of the god, or to injure his dignity and worth, 
came the idea of profanity, sternly forbidden by the 
early Jewish law, — " Take not the name of the Lord 

* Howitt, in Jour. Anthrop. Inst., xiii., p. I92. 

f James Adair, Hist, of the North Am. Indians, p. 54. 

Primitive Religious Expression 99 

in vain " — and by many other faiths of a primitive 

Quite consistently with this idea of real existence 
in names, the god who had many names had just as 
many powers or faculties. For that reason, the 
prominent gods of ancient Egypt, especially Isis, 
were called upon by so numerous epithets that the 
Greeks spoke of them as " myrionomous," ten-thou- 
sand-named. In later Babylonian times all the 
names of the fifty great gods were ascribed to Ea, 
by which process they were themselves absorbed 
into his being. " When they lost their names, they 
lost their personality as well." * To the Moham- 
medan the " One hundred names of God " repeated 
in the Koran express the multitude of His powers. 

The same tendency is visible in the native religions 
of America. The Mexicans applied many names to 
the same divinity, and in the Popol Vuh, the sacred 
book of the Quiches, the chief deity is called by a 
variety of titles, some sounding strange to us, as 
" the opossum-hunter," the " green snake," the 
" calebash," all of symbolic sense, f 

In the South Seas, the name of a god, adopted by 
a chief, identified him in the opinion of the people 

*Prof. Sayce in Hibbert Lectures , p. 305. 

f Sahagun, Historia de Nueva Espana, lib. i., passim ; Popol Vuh, 
cap. i.; Stoll, Ethtwgraphie der Rep. Guatemala^ p. 118. 

loo Religions of Primitive Peoples 

with the god and secured for him the reverence and 
adoration ascribed to his divine namesake. * 

This idea is that which in many early and later 
faiths led to what are called the " theophorous " or 
god-bearing names, where the individual is called by 
the proper name of a saint or god. They were espe- 
cially frequent in early Semitic religions, and are 
customary among Catholics to-day. f 

We find their origin in the custom, very general 
among the American Indians, for the person to take 
the name of the spirit who appears to him during 
the vigils and fasts which attend the ceremonies of 
initiation to manhood. By assuming the name of 
the divinity, the two natures or essences are believed 
to be united. This was precisely also the opinion of 
the early Christians, as we see in the expression of 
St. Ephrem, a Syrian saint of the fourth century: 
" Merciful was the Lord in that He clad on our 
Names. His Names make us great ; our Names 
make Him small." :{: 

If we seek the explanation of this strange power 

* Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, p. 6. 

f Comp. W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 41. 

X Select IVorks of St. Ephrem, p. 122. (Trans, by the Kev. J. B. 
Morris.) The name of Jesus was regarded by the early church as 
magical in itself. Arnobius says of him, " whose Name, when heard, 
puts to flight evil spirits, imposes silence on soothsayers, prevents 
men from consulting tlie augurs, and frustrates the efforts of magic- 
ians." — Adversus Gentes, lib. i., cap. 46. 

Primitive Religious Expression loi 

attributed to words and names, often apart from 
their signification, we shall find it in their extreme 
activity as agents of mental suggestion. They are 
intense psychic stimulants, stirring the soul to its 
depths. The Word is by odds the most effective of 
all agencies to bring about altered and abnormal 
mental conditions either in the individual or in the 
mass. Through it, judiciously applied, the pro- 
foundest hypnotic trance, or the wildest, maniacal 
nervous seizures can be produced at will. * 

The repetition of a word greatly heightens its sug- 
gestive influence and promotes the exclusion from 
the mind of all other concepts and associations than 
its own. In many languages, a word repeated is 
equivalent to the superlative degree, and in every 
tongue the repetition has a similar effect, as in the 
phrase : " Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of Sabaoth." 

No words in this relation are more efificient than 
names. Consider what our own lives would be if 
we had to change our names every year, how it 
would seem to obhterate our personality, how it 
would dissipate all dreams of posthumous glory and 
renown. Our consciousness of Self would suffer 
diminution, and the keenest interest of our lives 
would be lost. Our name is really and truly a part 
of ourselves, and he who would rob us of it would 
* See Stoll, Suggestion und Hypnoiismus, p. 14, seq. 

162 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

leave us poor indeed. Why is every point of view 
carved with the names of obscure tourists, why does 
it give us pleasure to note our names among the 
hundreds at some grand function, but that we think 
it more desirable to live " as naked nominations, 
without desert or noble deeds," as Sir Thomas Browne 
said, than to pass away and leave not that little 
which the Roman poet considered the least, — novihiis 
umbra, " the shadow of a name." 

For the practical purposes of life the name confers 
or creates the personality. This fact exerted a pro- 
found influence in the earliest development of re- 
ligion. The vague sense of spiritual power first 
became centred in the idea of an individual, of a 
personal god, when it received a name. 

The primitive words of barbaric tongues used to 
signifying the divine have not the connotation of in- 
dividuality. JVal-an, viaJiopa, Dinnito, tcotl, hiiaca, 
ku, are such words from American languages, not 
one of which conveys the concept of personality. 
That concept was first gained when some single ex- 
pression of spiritual power was differentiated and 

The essential religious element in the Word is its 

* The fi'iara of the Borneans is at times used as a personal name of 
the cliief divine being, at others in the vague sense of "duty" or 
"supernatural." lAngWoih, A^atives of Sara7vak,\o\. i., 179. Ana- 
logous instances have already been mentioned. 

Primitive Religious Expression lo;; 

power to bring man into relation to the gods. This 
is possible in three directions, — we may address them ; 
they may address us ; or we may talk about them. 
These furnish the three forms of sacred expression in 
speech: i. The word to the gods, — Prayer; 2. The 
word fro7n the gods, — Revelation ; and 3. The word 
about the gods, — the Myth. We will consider each 
of these. 

I. The Word to the Gods. — i. The Word to the 
gods is Prayer. It is a very prominent and nigh uni- 
versal element in primitive religions. The injunction 
" Pray always " is nowhere else so nearly carried out. 
Captain Clark, an officer of our army with the widest 
experience of Indian life, writes : " It seems a start- 
ling assertion, but it is, I think, true, that there are 
no people who pray more than Indians. Both super- 
stition and custom keep always in their minds the 
necessity for placating the anger of the invisible and 
omnipotent power, and for supplicating the active 
exercise of his faculties in their behalf." * 

In fact. Prayer may be said to be the life of the 
faith of savage tribes, and it is so recognised by 
themselves. According to the legends of the Maoris 
of New Zealand, when they first migrated to that 
island from Hawaii, they did not bring with them 
their ancestral gods, but took care to carry along the 
* Indian Sign Language, p. 309. 

I04 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

potent prayers which the gods cannot but hear and 
grant. * 

Some writers have claimed that certain tribes have 
been found without any notion of an appeal to un- 
seen agencies, and have quoted as instances the 
Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego, and the Mincopies of 
the Andaman Islands. But closer examination 
proves that the priests of the Yahgans call upon a 
mysterious being, Aiapakal,f and other invisible ex- 
istences, and the Mincopies are acknowledged to 
have prayers at the present time. 

The earliest hymns and prayers do not, as a rule, 
contain definite requests, but are general appeals to 
the god to be present, to partake of the feast which 
is spread, or to join the dance and to continue his 
good offices toward those who call upon him. Such 
are the hymns of the Rig Veda, and those of ancient 
Mexico, which I have collected and published. ^ 
They are like the evocatio deoruni of the Romans. 

The three forms of " the Word to the gods," or 
Prayer, are those of thanksgiving, by praise or lau- 
dation ; of petition for assistance or protection ; and 

*Sir George Grey, Polynesian Mythology, p. 164. 

f Hyades et Deniker, Mission Scientifiqe au Cap Horn, p. 376. 
Earlier voyagers write : " They certainly have ideas of a spiritual ex- 
istence." — Narrative of the Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, 
vol. ii., p. 179. 

\ Ancient Nahuatl Poetry {^\iAz.'SL&\'^\i\2., i8go) ; Rig Veda Ameri- 
canus Philadelphia, 1890). 

Primitive Religious Expression 105 

of penitence or contrition for neglect of duty. All 
these are common in the most primitive faiths. In 
all of them you will find the deity appealed to as 
great, mighty, a lord, a king, terror-inspiring, loving 
his followers, and by hundreds of such epithets of 
amplification and flattery. He is addressed endear- 
ingly as father or grandfather ; not at all implying 
a physical relationship, as some modern writers have 
erroneously stated ; but with reference to the loving 
care he is supposed to extend to his worshippers. 

As we might expect, most of the petitions in 
primitive prayers are for material benefits. The 
burden of most of them is well expressed by one in 
the Rig Veda: "O God, prosper us in getting and 
in keeping ! " They ask for increase of goods, 
abundant food, success in war, and fine weather. 

Yet among the rudest there are signs of an appre- 
ciation of something higher. A prayer of the 
Khonds, a Dravidian tribe of Northern India, reads: 
" O Lord, we know not what is good for us. Thou 
knowest what it is. For it we pray." 

It is strange to find among the Navahoes, a rude 
hunting tribe of our western territories, an intense 
longing for the beautiful. One of their prayers 
runs : " O Lord on high, whose youth is immortal, 
ruler above, I have made you the offering, preserve 
my body and members, preserve it in beauty, make 

io6 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

all things beautiful, let all be completed in 
beauty." * 

At other times the prayer is for moral control, as 
in this of a Sioux Indian : " O my grandfather, the 
Earth, I ask that thou givest me a long life and 
strength of body. When I go to war, let me cap- 
ture many horses and kill many enemies. But in 
peace, let not anger enter my heart." f 

Penitential prayers are uttered when one has 
broken the ceremonial law or tabu ; and in general, 
when misfortune and defeat seem to indicate that 
the gods are irritated at some insult offered them, 
though the worshipper may not be clear what it is. 

"O merciful Lord," says an Aztec prayer, "let 
this chastisement with which thou hast visited us 
give us freedom from evil and follies.":}: 

In many prayers we find formulas preserved which 
are no longer understood ; and very frequently the 
power of the prayer is believed to be increased by 
repeating it a number of times. The prayer choruses 
of nearly all savage tribes offer endless examples of 
this. The notion of increased force by repetition, a 
notion founded on the augmented suggestive power 
of the Word through its iteration, to which I have 

*Dr. W. Matthews, The Mountain C/iant of the N'avahoes^Y'- A^^S- 
f Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 309. 

X Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espana, lib. vi. Other examples are 
given by this writer. 

Primitive Religious Expression 107 

already referred, is so common that it was especially 
noted and condemned by Jesus as of no spiritual 

This form of prayer, indeed, degenerated into a 
mere magical formula, as we see was the case with the 
apostolic benediction of the Christian church during 
the middle ages, which became a charm in use by 
necromancers and sorcerers. 

In its sublimest essence, however, prayer has been 
recognised as something far beyond any form of 
suppliancy. It is, as an orthodox authority says, 
" the habitual state of a being who constantly lives 
in relation to God, and cultivates a constant ex- 
change with Him."* So understood, it is even 
more than inspiration ; it is a communion of spiritual 
life, a dwelling in God. This is the precise mental 
condition of many of the mystics and devotees of 
primitive religions. They are with the god, the 
god with and in them. 

II. The Word from the Gods.— If the mere 
name of the god was thus mighty and thus ven- 
erated, how much more the words he himself 
uttered I The " Word of God," as understood by 
the worshippers, is the kernel and core of every 
faith on earth. Every religion is, to its votaries, a 
revelation. None is so material, none so primitive, 

* EncyclopMie des Sciences Religieuses^ s. v. Priere. 

io8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

as to claim any other foundation than the expressed 
will of divinity. None is so devoid of ritual as 
to lack some means of ascertaining this will. 

The word from the gods is clothed under two 
forms, the Law and the Prophets, — in other terms, 
Precept and Prediction. In every religion, from the 
most primitive to the highest, we find these two 
modes of divine utterance. 

In the earliest phases of religion, the law is essen- 
tially prohibitory. It is in the form of the negative, 

"Thou shalt not ." Ethnologists have adopted 

for this a word from Polynesian dialects, tabu, or 
tapu, akin to tapa, to name, * that which was 
solemnly named or announced being sacred, and 
hence forbidden to \X\Qprofaniim vidgiis. 

The tahu extends its veto into every department 

of primitive life. It forbids the use of certain articles 

of food or raiment ; it hallows the sacred areas ; it lays 

restrictions on marriage, and thus originates what 

is known as the totemic bond ; it denounces various 

actions, often the most trivial and innocent, and 

thus lays the foundation for the ceremonial law. 

* Other forms are iapui, to make sacred ; tabui, to keep from ; 
tabuaki, to bless. Here, as elsewhere, there is a synonomy be- 
tween " sacred " or " holy " and " accursed," because it is accursed 
to defile that which is holy. Another, and less probable, derivation 
is given by Frazer, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, s. v. "Taboo." 
He is perfectly right, however, in saying that the original form of the 
tabu is due, not to its civil, but to its religious element. 

Primitive Religious Expression 109 

The penalty for the infraction of the tabu includes 
all that flows from the anger of the gods, reaching 
to death itself. A few examples, from the very 
rudest religions, will serve to illustrate this. 

The Kamschatkans in the beginning of the last 
century were very low in the scale of humanity and 
curiously pessimistic. They had a hero-god, Kutka, 
their mythic progenitor, of whom they told many 
strange and disgusting stories. They cursed him 
oftener than they blessed him, and refused to be- 
Heve that anything good could come from the gods. 
But to escape the ill-will of these malevolent beings 
they practised various ceremonies and refrained 
from sundry actions calculated to displease those 
capricious spirits. Thus, one must not cook fish 
and flesh in the same pot, or he would be punished 
with sores ; he must not step in the tracks of a bear, 
or he would be visited with a skin disease ; he must 
not scrape the snow from his shoes with a knife, or 
there would be violent storms ; and so on, through a 
long law of prohibitions. * 

The Mincopies of the Andaman Islands have no 
forms of worship, they have no invocations to the 
gods, their language, indeed, has no original word 
for " prayer." They believe firmly, however, in the 

*Klemm, Cidtuvi^eschichtc, vol, ii., pp. 368, sq., after Steller, who 
visited Kamschatka about \ 740. 

no Religions of Primitive Peoples 

existence of numerous spirits, not the souls of the 
deceased, but self-created and undying, who will in- 
jure them if they commit certain transgressions, such 
as to cook turtle or fish by burning a particular kind 
of wood ; to roast a pig instead of boiling it, and 
so on.'^ 

The Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego have been often, 
though erroneously, quoted as a tribe devoid of re- 
ligion. Their ceremonial law was rigid. The hairs 
that fell from the head must be burned, or the 
individual would fall ill ; the name of the dead must 
not be mentioned, or the ghost would return and 
plague them ; the young ducklings must not be 
killed, or bad weather would follow. f 

The tabu in Polynesia, whence it derives its name, 
was carried to an incredible degree of stringency. 
The dread of its violation was so vivid, that in itsell 
it was often the cause of the death of the offender.ij: 

The second form of the " Word from God " was 
when it was uttered as a prophecy, a prediction of 
the future. In this form it appears throughout the 
world under the innumerable aspects of divination, 
as oracles, prophetic utterances, forecasts of time 
to come, second-sight, clairvoyance, and the like. 

* Man, in your. Anthrop. Society, vol. xii., pp. 159, 173. 
f Authorities above quoted, and Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 95. 
\ For abundant examples of the tabu in various nations see Frazer's 
article in the Encyc. Britannica above referred to. 

Primitive Religious Expression 1 1 1 

The essence of every religious rite may be said to 
be divinatory, inasmuch as its final aim is either to 
learn or to modify the Will of God, and thus to in- 
fluence the future of the individual or society by 
extra-natural agencies. 

There is nothing in this derogatory to religion as 
an element of mind. The constant effort of the 
reason is to banish the idea of chance from the uni- 
verse ; and he who regards the Will of God as a law 
of the universe does exclude chance from its events 
just in proportion as he learns that Will and acts in 
conformity to it. 

Prediction in primitive religions is by two widely 
different methods, Divination and Prophecy. 

The diviner, relying on his own sense and reason- 
ing powers, foretells the future by observation of 
certain trains of events which he believes reveal the 
intentions of the gods ; the prophet is one inspired 
by the divine mind itself to speak its own words and 
to convey directly the thoughts and wishes of deity. 

This distinction is visible in early religions. Any 
one can learn the " signs " and " omens " which will 
be auspicious or inauspicious for his undertakings ; 
though, of course, to read their full significance one 
must have made special studies in the art of augury. 
To become an inspired prophet requires a much more 
serious preparation, and some form of communion 
direct with the gods must be established. 

112 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

III.— The Word concerning the gods. A 
brilliant French writer (E. Scherer) has said: "It 
was the Word that made the gods," " Le mot, cest 
t artisan des idolesy He but expressed in a pointed 
apothegm what the profound German mythologist 
Kuhn stated in more formal terms when he wrote : 
" The foundation of mythology is to be looked for 
in the domain of language." 

What, indeed, does the term " myth " itself mean ? 
It is merely the Greek for " a word," something spo- 
ken, and in this general sense it is used by Homer. 
Later, its connotation became restricted to what was 
spoken concerning the gods, the narratives of their 
doings, the descriptions of their abodes and attributes. 

Men began to frame such tales the moment they 
consciously recognised the existence of such unseen 
agencies. They were founded on visions, dreams, 
and those vague mental states which, as I have 
shown, fill up so large a part of savage life. They 
were not intentional fictions, by any means, for the 
criteria between the real and unreal fade away in 
those psychic conditions, and the faintest hold on 
actuality is enough to guarantee an indefinitely 
complex fancy. 

It was a strange error by one of the most earnest 
students of primitive religions, the Reverend W. 
Robertson Smith, when he advocated his theory 

Primitive Religious Expression 113 

that the myth was derived from the ritual, not the 
ritual from the myth.* Had he studied the actual 
rehgious condition of the rudest tribes, he would 
have found them with scarcely any ritual but a most 
abundant mythology ; and he would have discovered 
that where the myth was taken from the ritual, it is 
when the latter has lost its original meaning, and 
some other is devised to explain it. 

As examples of such notions, I may take the 
Bushmen of South Africa. They enjoy the general 
reputation of being the lowest of the human race. 
They have no temples, no altars, no ritual ; yet the 
missionary Bleek collected among them thousands 
of tales concerning their gods in their relations to 
men and animals, f 

The Andamanese are alleged to have no forms of 
worship whatever ; but they have many myths about 
the mighty Puluga, self-created and immortal, about 
the origin of fire, and the transactions of the invis- 
ible spirits. 

It would be easy to give many other examples, 
but it is enough to refute such an opinion by refer- 
ring to the vast body of myths in all religious peoples 
which have no reference to ritual whatever. 

* Religion of the Semites, p. l8. 

f Filling in manuscript, he says, seventy-seven quarto volumes, 
and far from exhausting the supply ! Bushman Folk-lore, p. 6. 
(London, 1875.) 

114 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The sources of mythology are psychic. They are 
not to be traced to the external world, whether 
ritual or natural. Myths are not figurative explana- 
tions of natural phenomena, they are not vague 
memories of ancestors and departed heroes, they are 
not philosophic speculations or poetic fancies. They 
are distinctly religious in origin, and, when genuine, 
are the fruit of that insight into the divine, that 
"beatific vision," on which I have laid such emphasis 
as the real and only foundation of all religions what- 

They receive their form and expression through 
spoken language, and are, therefore, intimately as- 
sociated with, often dependent upon its sounds, and 
laws. In how many ways this may influence them I 
may briefly mention. 

Primitive language is predominantly concrete. 
The connotations of its terms are mainly objective. 
By this necessity arose the materialisation of the 
spiritual thought. It had to be expressed under 
external imagery. 

Primitive languages are usually intensely individ- 
ualising and specific. There is scarcely a native 
tongue in America in which one could say " hand " ; 
one must always add a pronoun indicating whose 
hand is meant, " my, thy, his," hand. 

The generic distinctions in such tongues are often 

Primitive Religious Expression 115 

far reaching and real, not purely formal, as with us 
A word in the masculine or feminine gender is 
understood to mean that the object to which it re- 
fers is positively male or female. Many other dis- 
tinctions are thus conveyed, as what is animate and 
inanimate, noble or vulgar, etc. 

The result of these distinctions in such languages 
as the Aryan and Semitic was that the gods perforce 
were arranged sexually as male and female, and this 
persists to-day even in our English tongue. 

Many myths arose directly from words, through 
casual similarities between them which were at- 
tributed to some divine cause. This is the theory so 
well known by the advocacy of Professor Max Muller, 
who is charged, unfairly I believe, with having called 
mythology a " disease of language." He, Professor 
Kuhn, and others lay great and just stress on the 
influence of " paronomy," that is, similarity in the 
sound of words, as the starting-point of myths. 
They have adduced endless examples from the 
classical tongues, but I shall content myself with two 
from wholly primitive sources. 

I have just referred to the Andamanese as at the 
bottom of religious growth, but with an abundant 
mythology. In their tongue it hfeppens that the 
word garub means " night " and also a species of 
caterpillar. It is probably a mere coincidence of 

ii6 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

sound. But they saw in it much more. Night to 
them is a depressing period, and it would not have 
been created by the supreme Puluga without just 
cause. Evidently the double meaning of the word 
gartib indicated this. And as the wise men proceed 
on that universally sound opinion that when there is 
a row there is a woman in it, they perceive that some 
woman must have wantonly killed z. garub, a cater- 
pillar, in order that Puluga should have sent garub, 
the night, as a punishment. And this is the sum of a 
long mythical story.* 

Another example is from a far distant area, from 
among the Carrier Indians of British America. 
The arctic fox which they hunt has a sharp yelp 
which sounds kJiaiJi. Their word for " light " is 
yekkhaih. Evidently the fox was the animal 
who first called for the light and, by the magical 
power of the word, obtained it. Through what 
dif^culties he accomplished this is told in a long 
and curious myth obtained from them by Father 
Morice. f 

In the development of myths it was, indeed, often 
the case that those concerning one deity could be told 
of another — singularly incongruous as it often was, — 
or that the divine attributes primarily assigned to a 

*Man, tibi supra ^ p. 172. 

f Morice, Trans, Roy. Soc. Canada^ 1892, p. 125. 

Primitive Religious Expression 1 1 7 

deity and drawn from its character could be trans- 
ferred to a human type, as when those of a flower 
were placed on the god. * 

It is equally an error to suppose that myths were 
at first mere stories and received their religious char- 
acter later. The true myth has a religious aim from 
the outset, and is not the product of an idle fancy; 
Those who have taught otherwise have been mis- 
led by a superficial acquaintance with the psychology 
of savage tribes. Mythology comes from religion, 
not religion from mythology. 

The savage understands perfectly the difference 
between a sacred and a secular story, between a nar- 
rative of the doings of the gods handed down from 
his ancestors, and the creation of the idle fancy 
brought forth to amuse a circle of listeners. 

I have already referred to the strange similarity in 
the myths of savage nations far asunder in space 
and kinship. The explanation of this is not to be 
found in borrowing or in recollections from a com- 
mon, remote unity ; but in the laws of the human 
mind. The same myths are found all over the 
world, with the same symbolism and imagery, woven 
into cycles dealing with the same great questions of 

* This branch of the subject has been fully discussed by Keary, 
Outlines of Prim. Belief, Preface and chapter i. ; and Frazer, The 
Golden Bough, passim. 

ii8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

human thought. This is because they arise from 
identical psychic sources, and find expression under 
obHgatory forms, depending on the relations of man 
to his environment, and on the unity of mental pro- 
cess throughout the race. 

It is not possible for me at the present time to 
enter far into the vast temple of mythology. I must 
content myself with selecting a few of the most 
prominent mythical cycles, aiming by these to show 
how they form the ground-plan and substructure of 
the whole edifice of mythical narrative. 

I will select seven which are the most prominent, 
those relating to: i. the Cosmical Concepts ; 2. the 
Sacred Numbers; 3. the Drama of the Universe; 
4. the Earthly Paradise; 5. the Conflict of Nature; 
6. the Returning Saviour; and 7. the Journey of 
the Soul. 

7. The Cosmical Concepts. — Wherever man is placed 
on the earth, he is guided in his movements by space 
and direction. These are among the earliest notions 
he derives from the impressions on his senses. His 
anatomical conformation, the anterior and posterior 
planes of his body and his right and left sides, lead 
him to a fourfold division of space, as before him 
and behind him, to one side or the other. He con- 
ceives the earth, therefore, as a plain with four 
quarters, the chief directions as four, to wit, the car- 

Primitive Religious Expression 119 

dinal points, and the winds as four principal currents 
from these points. The sky is to him a solid cover- 
ing, supported at each of its four corners by a tree, a 
pillar, or a giant, and is itself divided into four courts 
or regions like the earth. 

These were his cosmical concepts, his primal ideas 
of the universe, and they entered deeply into his life, 
his acts, and his beliefs. He founded his social or- 
ganisation on them, he pitched his tents or built his 
cities on their model, he oriented his edifices to 
simulate them, and framed his myths to explain and 
perpetuate them. 

We find these concepts practically universal. The 
symbolic figures which represent them are scratched 
in the soil at the Bora, or initiation ceremonies of 
the Australians ; they are etched into the pots and 
jars we dig up in the mounds of the Mississippi val- 
ley ; they are painted in strange figures on the 
manuscripts of the Mayas and Mexicans; they re- 
appear in the mysterious symbols of the svastika 
and the Chinese Ta-Ki ; they underlie the founda- 
tion stones of Egyptian pyramids, and recur in the 
lowest strata of Babylonian ziggarats.* 

2. The Sacred Numbers. — The cosmical concepts 
were closely connected with the sacred numbers. 

* See Myths of the New World, chap. iii. ; also, an article on 
symbolism in ancient American art, by Prof. Putnam and Mr. Wil- 
loughby in Proc. Am. Ass. Adv. Science, vol. xliv., p. 302, 

I20 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Wherever we turn in myth and rite, in symbolism or 
sacred art, we find certain numbers which have a 
hallowed priority in religious thought. These num- 
bers are pre-eminently the three and the four, and 
those derived from them. They are distinctly anti- 
thetic in character, arising from contrasting psychical 
sources, which I will briefly explain. 

The number four derives its sacredness in myth- 
ology from the cosmical concepts just mentioned. 
It was, therefore, connected with the objective and 
phenomenal world, and had a material and concrete 
origin and applications. 

The number three, on the other hand, was sur- 
rounded with the halo of sanctity from the opera- 
tions of the mind itself. These, the processes of 
thinking, are carried on by a triple or rather triune 
action of the intelligence, which logicians express in 
the three fundamental " laws of thought," and in the 
trilogy of the syllogism. These ever-present laws of 
thinking impress themselves on the mind and mental 
acts whether they are recognised or not, and all the 
more absolutely in that involuntary action in which, 
as " sub-limital consciousness " or " psychic automat- 
ism," I have revealed to you the true source of the 
conception of the Divine. f 

■j- I have presented this subject with greater detail in an article 
" On the Origin of Sacred Numbers " in the American Anthropologist, 
April, 1894. The contrast of symbolism of the three and the four 

Primitive Religious Expression 121 

How natural, then, that we should find in so many 
primitive faiths the behef in the tripHcate nature of 
divinity, should find myths, idols, rites, so devised as 
to reflect and inculcate this ! Such is the case, and 
it is easy to quote examples, whether we turn to the 
Indians of America or the Indians of Hindostan, 
whether we touch on the triads of ancient Egypt or 
those of the Druids, whether we recall the three 
Norns of Teutonic myth or the three Fates of the 
Hellenes. As a writer, who has made the subject 
his special branch, observes: "It is impossible to 
study any single system of worship throughout the 
world, without being struck with the peculiar per- 
sistence of the triple number in regard to Divinity."* 

The exception to this would naturally be where 
the concept of the number itself was too feeble to 

is familiar to students. Such a popular text-book as Keil's Manual 
of Biblical Archeology states that four was the predominating num- 
ber in the temples, altars, and rites of the ancient world, it being, 
"according to an idea common to all antiquity, the symbol of the 
cosmos " ; while the three was "the mark of the Divine Being in His 
various manifestations " (pp. 127, 128). 

* Westcott, Symbolism of Numbers, p. 7. I have given sev- 
eral examples of triple or triune deities in America in Myths of the 
N'ew World, pp. 84, 187, 188. From other fields I may note the 
triad Kane, Ku, and Lono of Hawaii (Fornander, Polynesian Race, 
vol. i. , p. 61); that on the Marquesas objectively represented by 
three sticks tied together (Dr. Tautain, in L Anthropologic, torn, 
vii., p. 544) ; the triad of Tangaloa, Creator, Maui, Sustainer, and 
Tiki, Revealer, elsev/here in Polynesia (Hale, Ethnog. and Philol., 
p. 24). 

122 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

impress itself upon the myth. There are tribes who 
cannot count four, whose languages have no word 
for any number beyond two, and yet who are by no 
means deficient either in mythologies or practical 
arts.* Among these, we should look in vain for the 
sacredness of numbers. 

J. TJie Drama of the Universe. — I have already 
quoted the saying of the wise men of ancient India, 
" There is no limit to the knowing of the Self that 
knows." He who through meditation and prayer 
has become one with God, knows what God knows. 
Thus it is that in the rudest tribes we find the story 
of the beginning of things clearly told as coming 
from the inspired knowledge of the seers. 

This story has many points of similarity, wherever 
we find it, not owing, I hasten again to say, to any 
unity of origin in place, but due to the higher unity 
of the mind of man, and the necessary results of its 

Look in what continent we please, we shall find 
the myth of a Creation or of a primeval construction, 
of a Deluge or a destruction, and of an expected 
Restoration. We shall find that man has ever looked 
on this present world as a passing scene in the shift- 
ing panorama of time, to be ended by some cataclysm 

* Numerous examples are collected in L. L. Conant, The Number 
Concept, chap. ii. 

Primitive Religious Expression 12; 

and to be followed by some period of millennial 

Whenever we have a fairly complete body of the 
mythology of a primitive stock, we discover the 
same scenario of the vast drama of the universe, 
varying abundantly in detail and local colour, but 
true to the grandiose lines of its composition. 

It is instructive to analyse its various elements 
and trace them to their psychic sources. Let us begin 
with the modes of action of the creative power itself. 

This mysterious power is known to man under 
three forms. 

The simplest is that of the moulder or manufact- 
urer, as the potter makes his pots, the shoemaker 
his shoes. This is the conception which underlies 
many myths of the Creator, as is shown by the 
names he bears. Thus the Australians called him 
Baiame, " the cutter-out," as one cuts out a sandal 
from a skin, or a figure from bark. The Maya In- 
dians used the term Patol, from the verb pat, to 
mould, as a potter his clay, Bitol, which has the 
same meaning, and Tzacol, the builder, as of a 
house.* With the Dyaks of Borneo, the Creator 
is Tupa, the forger, as one forges a spear-blade f ; 
and so on. 

* In the Quiche and Tzental dialects. 

f From the verb tumpa, to forge. Ling Roth, Natives of Sarawak, 
vol. i., p. 165. 

124 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The second form is that of creation in the sense 
of generation, and this is a constant simile in the 
myths, with reference to the process both in the 
vegetable and animal kingdoms. 

The Creator is often referred to as the Father, the 
parent, more or less literally, of all that is. He has 
many such titles in the myths of America and Poly- 
nesia. In bi-sexual myths he is associated with 
some universal mother as the genetrix. 

The third form is more recondite and loftier. In 
an earlier lecture I have emphasised how man is 
conscious within himself of the Will as an ultimate 
source of power. This he clearly recognised in his 
primitive conditions, and to its exertion repeatedly 
in his myths did he attribute the origin of things. 
They were self-evolved in the thought of the primal 
Being, or, as the native American expression is, they 
were " created by thought." 

We find this in the rudest tribes of North Amer- 
ica ; and among the sedentary Zufiis of New Mexico, 
it is said of their demiurge Awonawilona that at the 
beginning " he conceived within himself and thought 
outward in space," in order to bring nature into 
existence. We see the connection in the Vitian 
dialect of Polynesian, in which mania is " to think " ; 
mana, a miracle, and the power to perform one. 
According to the myths of Hawaii, it was " by an 

Primitive Religious Expression 125 

act of the will " that their triple-natured Creator 
" broke up the night " (Po), and from its fragments 
evoked into being the world of light and life.* 

Whatever the mode of creation, it was felt that it 
did not tell the whole story. The conceptions of 
time and space are in their essence limitless, and any 
creation must have been within them. Thus in 
Polynesian myth, Po represents not a dateless chaos 
but the debris of some former state of things ; and 
in Algonquin legend the primeval ocean had en- 
gulfed some older world.f 

This psychic molimen, ceaselessly acting, led in 
more developed mythologies to some defined fancies 
of these earlier periods of cosmic existence and thus 
to the myths of the Ages of the World or the Epochs 
of Nature. These are clearly outlined among the 
Mexicans, Mayas, Peruvians, and other tribes of the 

* The Tinne of British America have the word Nay/weri, he who 
creates by thought (Petitot, Les Dene Dindjie, p. 63) ; the Algon- 
quian Kitche Manito created the world "by an act of his will " 
(Schoolcraft, Onedta, p. 342). For the Zunians, see Gushing, Zuni 
Creation Myths, p. 379 ; for the Polynesians, Hale, Ethnography of 
the U. S. Exploring Expedition, p. 399, and Fornander, The Poly- 
nesian Race, vol. i., p. 62. 

There is no distinction between these opinions and that of the 
Christian church, so beautifully expressed by St. Ephrem the Syrian : 
" At the nod of His will, noiseless and gentle, out of nothing He 
created all." {Select Works, Translated by Rev. J. B. Morris, p. 

f Fornander, The Polynesian Race, vol. i., p. 67 ; Rel. de la Nouv. 
France, 1634, p. 13. 

126 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

New World and among many on the Eastern Hemi- 
sphere. The Aztecs count them as four, each fol- 
lowed by a formidable catastrophe, nearly or quite 
destroying all that lived. 

The last of these destructions was generally 
blended with the notion of the emergence of the 
solid land from the primeval waters ; and this is 
the origin of the Deluge Myth, the story of the Uni- 
versal Flood, which we find in so many primitive 
peoples. It has excited especial attention, and by 
writers has been explained as the remembrance of 
some local overflow, or the recollection of the He- 
brew tradition. Its real origin, purely psychic and 
derived from the myth of the Epochs of Nature, I 
explained thirty years ago in discussing its preva- 
lence among American tribes.* 

4.. The Earthly Paradise. — Associated with this 
cycle is the myth of the terrestrial Paradise, watered 
by its four rivers, and enclosing the tree of life, — the 
happy abode of early man. The four rivers are the 
celestial streams from the four corners of the earth, 
watering the tree as the emblem of life. Thus we 
find it among the American Indians, the Sioux and 

* In Myths of the New World, ch. vii. (first ed., 1868). Numer- 
ous writers, Klee, Andree, Lucas, etc., have treated the deluge myth 
with fulness. It is found even among the Mincopies of the Anda- 
man Islands (Man, «. j.) and is quite common throughout Polynesia 
(Fornander, ?/. s., vol. i., pp. 88, sg.). Various Australian tribes 
record it in detail, Smyth, The Aborigines 0/ I'ictotia, vol. i., p. 430. 

Primitive Religious Expression 127 

the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Polynesians, the ancient 
Aryans and Semites, etc.* Its origin is purely 
psychic, and though we can easily understand how 
the writer of the Book of Genesis sought to identify 
these mythical streams with some known to him, it 
is strangely out of date for scholars of to-day to 
follow his footsteps in that vain quest.f 

5. The Conflict of Nature. — Another great cycle 
of psychic myths arose from the conflict of nature as 
apprehended by the primitive mind. Everywhere it 
seems to be raging around us. The hourly struggle 
of light with darkness ; of day with night ; of sun- 
shine with storm ; of summer with winter; of youth 
with age, of health with disease ; of life with death ; 
of all that makes toward good with all that makes 
toward evil — this endless battle of two principles un- 
derlies all movement and is forever stirring the soul 
to throw itself into the fray. 

In a thousand forms this eternal combat was por- 
trayed in myths, all pregnant with one meaning, 
bodying it forth in varied symbol and expression. 
The world-wide stories of the conflict of the first two 

* Pomander («. J., vol. i., p. 79, sq.) discusses it in Polynesia. 
Their " tree of life " was a sacred " tabooed " bread-fruit tree. For 
America, see Myths of the New World, pp. 103-106. 

f For this reason the works of Delitsch, Haupt, etc., on the 
question, Wo lag das Paradies ?, are much less to the point than if 
their writers had studied the comparative mythology of the subject. 

128 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

brothers, of men with gods, of giants with heroes, of 
the deities among themselves, arose from this per- 
ception of the unceasing interaction of natural forces, 
imagined as a war between conscious existences. 

6. The Returning Savionr. — Out of this imagined 
turmoil and slaughter grew the wonderful mythical 
cycles concerning the Deliverer and Saviour. He 
would come from afar, out of the morning light or 
the distant sky, or he would be born of a virgin and 
the son of a god. He would lead his people to hap- 
piness and power, crushing by his might the enemies 
who afflicted them, whether on earth or among the 
envious gods. Blond -bearded and light -haired, 
even among Polynesians and Americans, we cannot 
err in seeing in this majestic figure the personified 
idea of Light, transferred from the plane of physical 
phenomena into that of psychical anticipation.* 

7. The Journey of the Soul. — Lastly, I mention 
the cycle which describes the journey of the soul 
after death. The extraordinary similarity which I 
and others have pointed out between the opinions 
on this subject among Egyptians, Greeks, ancient 
Celts, and North American Indians, f is not to be 

* This mythical cycle, as it arose among the native tribes of Amer- 
ica, was made by me the special subject of a volume, American Hero- 
Myths (pp. 251, Philadelphia, 18S2). 

\ See my £ssavs 0/ an Americanist, pp. 135-147; J.Grimm, 7Vk- 
tonic Mythology, vol. ii., p. 832; Schrader and Jevons, Prehistoric 
Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples, p. 424. 

Primitive Religious Expression 129 

explained by any theory of inter-communication, 
nor " by chance," as some have argued, but by fixed 
psychic laws, working over the same material under 
similar conditions. 

The soul passes toward the west, crosses a sea or 
river to the abode of the departed, and meets every- 
where nearly the same obstacles, to be overcome by 
proper preparations and mortuary ceremonies. I 
need not rehearse the details. They can be com- 
pared elsewhere. But their substantial identity 
confirms in an emphatic manner the thesis I am 
advocating, that in these universal mythical cycles 
we are dealing not with fragments of some one set 
of fancies borrowed from a common source, but 
with independent creations of the human intellect, 
framed under laws common to it everywhere, and 
which tend always to produce fruits generically 

everywhere the same. 



Primitive Religious Expression : In the 

Contents :— Visual Ideas— Fetishism— Not Object-Worship only- 
Identical with Idolatry — Modern Fetishism — Animism — Not a 
Stadium of Religion— The Chief Groups of Religious Objects : 

1, The Celestial Bodies— Sun and Moon Worship— Astrolatry ; 

2. The Four Elements — Fire, Air (the Winds), Water, and the 
Earth— Symbolism of Colours ; 3. Stones and Rocks — Thunder- 
bolts—Memorial Stones— Divining Stones ; 4. Trees and Plants 
— The Tree of Life— The Sacred Pole and the Cross— The 
Plant-Soul— The Tree of Knowledge ; 5. Places and Sites- 
High Places and Caves ; 6. The Lower Animals — The Bird, 
the Serpent, etc. ; 7. Man— Anthropism in Religion— The Wor- 
ship of Beauty ; 8. Life and its Transmission— Examples— 
Genesiac Cults — The Fatherhood of God— Love as Religion's 

IF we analyse the concepts which occupy our 
minds, we shall find that most of them are 
derived from the sense of sight ; they are what 
psychologists call "visual ideas." To these alone 
we owe the notions of space, size, form, colour, bright- 
ness, and motion. 

By fiUing the brain with such images, sight be- 
comes a mental stimulus of the highest order, and 
as we find it exerting its influence in other directions, 


Primitive Religious Expression 131 

so in the development of the religious sense it has 
always held a conspicuous place. It has led to the 
objective expression of that sense under visible 
forms, in images, pictures, sacred structures, sym- 
bolic colours and shapes, and natural substances. 

This expression, universal in primitive conditions, 
is called fetishism, polytheism, and idolatry, the 
worship of stocks and stones. But I wish to im- 
press upon you that nowhere in the world did man 
ever worship a stock or a stone, as such. Every 
fetish, be it a rag-baby or a pebble from the road- 
side, is adored, not as itself, but as possessing some 
mysterious, transcendental power, by which it can 
influence the future. In some obscure way it is the 
medium or agent of that supernatural Will, the 
recognition of which is at the basis of every 

The relation of the fetish to the spiritual power 
behind it, though everywhere recognised, was not 
easy to define. The Melanesians believe that the 
souls of the dead act through bones ; while the 
independent spirits {vui) choose stones as their 
mediums ; and they say that these objects are, as 
it were, limbs or members of these incorporeal 

That the fetish itself is something else than the 

* Codrington in your. Anthrop. Soc, vol. x., p. 285. 

132 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

mere object, and is certainly not identified with it 
(as writers have often asserted), is evident from the 
words and actions of fetish worshippers. A South 
African negro offered food to a tree in the presence 
of an European traveller. The latter observed that 
a tree cannot eat. " Oh," replied the negro, " tree 
not fetish. Fetish spirit; not seen; live in tree."* 

If a fetish does not bring good luck, it is thrown 
away, burned, or broken, as having lost its virtue, 
ceased to be the abode of power. One of eflficacy, 
on the other hand, will bring a good price, and such 
are often sold and bought. Among the Papuans of 
New Guinea the fetishes are small wooden dolls 
dressed in coloured rags. They are believed to be 
the media through which the ancestral spirits oper- 
ate. But if a man has bad luck, he will beat, or 
break, or cast away, as of no account, such an 
impotent object, f 

These and scores of other examples which could 
be adduced disprove the assertion that man, even in 
his lowest phases of religious life, ever worshipped 
an object as an object. Even then, his intellectual 
insight penetrated to the recognition of something 
higher than phenomena in the world about him. As 
has been well said by a German writer, what is really 

* Waitz, Anthropologic der Naturvolker , Bd. ii., p. 188. 

f Von Hasselt, in Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, Bd. viii., p. 196. 

Primitive Religious Expression 133 

worshipped in the object anywhere is not itself but 
"a transcendental x ," within and beyond it,* 

It has been abundantly shown that amid the tribes 
of the West Coast of Africa, to whose gods the term 
fetish, /^zVzfc, was first applied by the Portuguese, 
the recognition and worship of tribal and national 
divinities and even of a Supreme Being, ruler and 
creator of the world, are clearly displayed. f 

The house of cards therefore, erected by Augusta 
Comte, to represent the religious progress of the race, 
the first floor of which was fetishism, the second 
polytheism, and the third monotheism, falls help- 
lessly to the ground. 

There is no real distinction between fetishism and 
idolatry, unless we choose to say that the latter refers 
to the worship of objects artificially shaped ; but 
many fetishes are so likewise. 

Nor can we say, with Professor Rialle, that fetish- 
ism confounds the unseen agent with the thing itself, 
while the idolatry of developed polytheism regards 
the agent as something exterior to the object, an in- 
dependent existence. :}: For not only does fetishism 

* J. G. Pfleiderer, Die Genesis des Alythus der Indogermanischen 
Volker, p. 48. 

\ References in Pietschmann, Zeitschrift fiir Ethnologie, Bd. x., p. 
159, who points out that fetishism should be, as a term, confined to 
the cult and not applied to the content of a religion. 

:|; Rialle, La Mythologie Compar^e, ch. i. 

134 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

recognise the power of the supernatural outside of 
all objects, but the idols of polytheism are unquest- 
ionably just as holy, just as much limbs of the gods, 
as the dolls of the Melanesians. 

We cannot even take fetishism as a special form 
of the cult or external worship ; for it goes hand in 
hand with every phase of objective religion. It is 
quite as prevalent now, in proportion to the general 
strength of the religious sentiment, as it ever was, 
and is visible in the sacredncss which all sects of the 
highest religions attach to certain objects and places. 
When the Christian .touches the bone of a saint that 
he may be healed of an infirmity, or when he speaks 
of his church edifice as " the house of God," or when 
he packs in his trunk a Bible " for luck's sake," he is 
as much a fetish worshipper as the negro caboceer 
who collects around him a thousand pieces of rubbish 
because he thinks they have brought him good for- 

Modern folk-lore is full of fetishism, and it is a 
development of the religious sentiment which flour- 
ishes in all times and climes. Amulets, charms, lucky 

* Prof. Granger remarks that " the influence of the fetish is inter- 
preted as a kind of life of which the fetish is the seat." — Worship of 
the Romans, p. 201. Bastian defines it as "an incorporation of a 
subjective emotional state," and his disciple Achelis recognises that 
it is not a stadium of religious development. See his Moderne Volker- 
kunde, p. 366. 

Primitive Religious Expression 135 

stones, everything that we now call by the familiar 
term of mascot, partakes of the nature of a fetish. 
Through some fancied potency, not to be found 
among its physical quahties, it is believed to bring us 
good fortune. 

Nor is it a distinctive character of fetish worship, 
as has been maintained by some, that in it compul- 
sion or constraint is endeavoured to be exercised on 
the gods to force them to be favourable and exert 
their power in aid of the supplicant. The earliest 
prayers are not of this character, as I showed in my 
last lecture ; and, on the other hand, the notion of 
constraining the gods extended widely in higher re- 
ligions and, indeed, probably in a metaphysical sense, 
was taught by the founder of Christianity himself, 
as in the parable of the unjust judge. 

As there is nothing deeper than an external dis- 
tinction between fetishism and idolatry, so there is 
no special form of religious thought which expresses 
itself as what has been called by Dr. Tylor, "anim- 
ism," the belief that inanimate objects are animated 
and possess souls or spirits. This opinion, which in 
one guise or another, is common to all religions and 
many philosophies, is merely a secondary phenom- 
enon of the religious sentiment, and not a trait 
characteristic of primitive faiths. The idea of the 
World-Soul, manifesting itself individually in every 

136 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

form of matter from the star to the clod, is as truly 
the belief of the Sioux Indian or the Fijian canni- 
bal, as it was of Spinoza or Giordano Bruno.* 

This vague and universal divine potency extends 
through all nature, organic and inorganic, expressing 
itself in personality wherever separateness, oneness, 
is visible. Not merely did animals and trees share 
in the World-soul, but every object whatever. With 
the American Indians, the commonest sticks and 
stones, even the household vessel fashioned out of 
clay, or the hollowed stone on which the maize was 
pounded, had its spiritual essence, which might 
speak, act, and require to be venerated.f The 
Vitian Islanders held that each cocoanut had its 
own spirit, and occasionally many cocoanuts as- 
sembled for a jollification, at which times the joyous 
cracking of their sides kept the natives awake! :{: 

But no error would be greater than to confound 
this with a veneration of such objects in themselves. 

To the mind of the savage, whatever displayed 
movement, emitted sound or odour, or by its de- 

* The insufficiency of animism as a theory of primitive religions 
has been previously urged by Van Ende, Histoire Naturelle de la 
Croyance, p. 21. Like fetishism and shamanism, animism should 
be regarded, not as a form or stadium of religion, but, to use Cas- 
tren's excellent expression, " nur ein Moment in der Gotterlehre." 
Finnische Mythologie, Einleitung. 

\ Dorsey, Siouan Cults, p. 433 ; the Popol Vuh, passim. 

X Hale, Ethnog. and Philol. of the U. S. Exploring Expd., p. 55. 

Primitive Religious Expression 137 

fined limits and form indicated unity, was to him 
a manifestation in personality of that impersonal, 
spiritual Power of which he felt himself but one of 
the expressions. All other expressions shared his 
powers, and did not, in essence, differ from him. 
The brute, the plant, the stone, the wandering orbs 
of night, the howling wind, the crackling fire, the 
towering hill, all were his fellow-creatures, inspired 
by the same life as himself, drawing it from the same 
universal font of Hfe. 

It is not without reason, therefore, that the unde- 
veloped religious longings ask for something con- 
crete to represent divinity. Through its visible and 
audible traits the power of the Unseen Ruler is 
brought sharply to the consciousness. We sympa- 
thise even with the poor Oraons of Bengal, who, 
seeing nothing nobler to embody the divine, place a 
ploughshare on their altar as the object of adora- 

Although in the limitless field of his religious 
insight everything in nature was to him a manifesta- 
tion of divinity, primitive man everywhere indicated 
a preference for certain objects and groups of ob- 
jects, evidently led to single them out on account of 
the strength or frequency of the appeals they make 
to his senses of sight and hearing. 

* E. T. Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 258. 

138 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

With the utmost brevity I will enumerate the 
most important of these groups, and endeavour at 
the same time to point out why they were every- 
where selected to convey conceptions of the nature 
and attributes of God. 

/. The Celestial Bodies. — The first group that I 
shall mention is that of the Celestial Bodies, the 
Sun, Moon, and Stars. The traits which connected 
them with the ideas of the divine are almost too 
obvious to require mention. They are bringers of 
light and warmth, they define the momentous 
change of day and night, their motions usher in the 
seasons and mark the progress of time. They are 
remote, aloft, inscrutable, dwellers in a realm which 
man may distantly perceive but never enter. 

So much has been written of solar myths and 
star worship that every reader is aware of their practi- 
cal universality among early nations. It is probable 
that the division of our week into seven days arose 
either from the dedication of one to each of the 
seven greatest luminaries or to a division of the 
moon's apparent course into four parts. Judicial 
astrology, which is not yet wholly dead, always 
maintained that the nativities were decided by the 
position of the stars. 

All such survivals carry us back to primitive re- 
ligions in which the astral bodies were prominent 

Primitive Religious Expression 139 

figures in the cult. Many writers have maintained 
that the American Indians from north to south were 
always and mainly sun-worshippers. Though this is 
too hasty a statement, everyone will acknowledge 
that the sun is ever a conspicuous figure in their 
myths and rites. So it is among the Polynesians 
and Africans, and so we find it in the early forms of 
Aryan, Semitic, and Egyptian belief. 

It is at first sight strange that in many mythologies 
the moon plays a more important role than the sun. 
But if we reflect that the night is the time when 
spirits walk abroad ; when sounds strike the ear with 
mysterious notes ; when nocturnal birds and beasts 
stir the senses with strange cries ; when, on the other 
hand, the cooling zephyrs and soft moonlight bring 
sweet ease, and the gentle dews refresh the parched 
leaves ; then we can understand why, both in modern 
folk-lore* and in primitive myths, the moon and the 
stars are often far more conspicuous than the flam- 
ing sun. The night, in fact, draws the veil from the 
spiritual world ; as has been said so beautifully by 
Shelley : 

" As if yet around her he lingering were. 
Though the veil of daylight concealed him from her." 

* See remarks of W. W. Newell in his introduction to Fanny D. 
Bergen, Current Superstitions {Mems. Afuer. Folk-lore Society, 
vol, iv.). 

140 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

A few examples will illustrate this : The Dieyeris 
of Australia believe that man and all other beings 
were created by the moon. In many American 
languages the moon is regarded as male and the sun 
is referred to as " his companion." The Ipurinas, a 
Brazilian tribe, address the orb as " Our Father," 
and imagine him a little old man who was their 
ancestor and still watches over their prosperity. In 
like manner the eastern Eskimos say that their 
ancestors came from the moon to the earth. With 
the rude tribes of southern Borneo it is stated that 
the veneration of the moon forms the chief basis of 
their worship and myths.* 

I can but refer to the lesser luminaries of the night. 
The stars have at all times been associated with 
religious meditations. The various constellations are 
familiar to most primitive peoples and are personified 
under living forms. Widely in South America and 
Polynesia the Pleiades enjoyed an especial homage, 
as marking the advent of the seasons and as con- 

* Klemm, Culturgeschichie, Bd. ii., s. 316; Ling Roth, Natives 
of Sarawak, vol. ii., App., p. cxcviii. ; Brinton, Myths 0/ the A\'7V 
World, p. 154 ; Curr, The Australian A'ace, vol. ii., p. 48. The 
moon was sacred to Tina, the chief god of the Etruscans. Milller, 
Die Eirtisker, Bd. ii., p. 43. Ne dida, better known as Dido, has 
been identified with the moon as the leading deity of the Cartha- 
ginians and Phcenicians. Otto Meltzer, Geschichte der Karthager, 
Bd. i., s. 128. Danu, the goddess who presided over the Irish pan- 
theon, the tuatha de Danattn, was the moon (from daon, to rise). 

Primitive Religious Expression 141 

nected with the production of vegetable life. In 
Peru they were styled the gods of rains ; and the 
natives of the Gulf of California venerated them to 
that degree that even to look at them heedlessly was 
deemed calamitous ; while some Australians held 
that it was from them that fire first descended to the 
world.* In such remote districts as Australia and 
Greenland the Milky-way was regarded as the path 
by which the souls ascended to their homes in the 
sky. In the one land the Aurora Australis, in the 
other the Aurora Borealis, was looked upon as the 
dance of the gods across the star-lit vault. Indeed, 
the study of the stellar bodies and the definition of 
their periodical appearance date directly to the ven- 
eration they excited in religious minds. 

2. The Four Elements. — The simple theory that 
the world is composed of four elements, fire, water, 
air, and earth, is one which presents itself so 
naturally to primitive thought that traces of it can 
be seen in most mythologies which have passed be- 
yond the rudimentary forms. 

Each of these elements has its own group of re- 
ligious associations, and they present themselves 
with that uniformity which we find so universal in 
religious expression, to be explained, as I have so 

*Montesin'Os, Ancien Perou, p. 17 ; Venegas, Hist 0/ California, 
p. 107 ; Smyth, Aborigines of Victoria, vol. i., p. 459. 

142 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

often said, by the identity everywhere of the psychic 
sources of religion. 

Perhaps the earhest of all the elements to receive 
this adoration was^rc. With its discovery man first 
entered into human social life. Everywhere and in 
all peoples it has been in a manner sacred. With 
the Kafirs every religious ceremony must be per- 
formed in front of a fire.* In the Rig Veda the 
crackling of the blazing twigs is regarded as the 
speech of the gods, just as it is to-day in Borneo. 
The institutions of the sacred fire and the perpetual 
fire recur in every continent, and we have but to 
enter a church of the Roman communion on the 
morning of Holy Saturday to witness the impressive 
ceremonies with which the creation of the " new 
fire " is to this day celebrated in our midst. The 
custom of passing an infant " through the fire " 
was as much practised by the Aztecs in Mexico as 
by the Moloch worshippers of Syria.f The Peru- 
vians held that divine inspiration was to be obtained 
by sacrifices to the god of fire ; and those of Guat- 
emala adored it as their greatest and oldest deity. If. 

In all these and in a hundred other examples 
which I might cite, the main thought is that in fire 

* Brincker in Globus, Bd. Ixviii., p. gy. 
f Martin de Leon, Camino del Cielo, fol. lOi. 

X Montesinos, Ancien Perou, pp. 14-16 ; Ximenes, Origen de los 
Indios de Guatemala, p. 157. 

Primitive Religious Expression 143 

and its products — warmth, heat, h'ght, flame — Hes 
the essential principle of life ; and the worship of 
Life was the central, positive conception in primitive 

The air to early man is recognised in motion as 
the winds ; and these, in his myths and rites, occupy 
a conspicuous position. Conceived as four, blowing 
more or less directly from the four corners of the 
earth-plane, they are the rain-bringers, the gods of 
the seasons and the year, controlling the products of 
the harvest and hence the happiness and life of 
man. The outlines of the story are the same 
whether we listen to the Maoris of New Zealand, 
who tell us of Tawhiri-matea, god of the winds, 
who divided his progeny into four broods and sent 
one to each quarter of the compass ; to the Eskimos, 
who narrate just the same of Sillam Innua, owner 
of the winds, and his four sons ; or to a score of 
like myths which I could quote from American 
story land.* 

The house of the winds, where they are imagined 
to be stored, a mythical notion which Professor 
Schwartz has shown to be so wide-spread in the Old 
World, recurs with scarcely less frequency in the 
New World, f 

* Sir George Grey, Polynesian Mythology, p. 5 ; Egede, Nachrichten 
von Gronland, s. 137. 

f Zeitschrift fur Ethnologic, Bd. ix. The Eskimo called it Sillam 
Mipane, winds-house. Egede, u. s. 

144 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Water, as moisture, the dew, the fertilising 
showers, the green bordered streams and lakes, was 
ever connected with vegetable life and its symbols. 
In most cosmogonies the land rose from the bosom 
of some primal sea ; in most primitive geographies 
the solid earth is surrounded by the mighty ocean- 
stream which stretches out to the uttermost space. 

"All of us," said the Aztecs, "are children of 
water." Hence the spring, the stream, the lake, was 
ever regarded as a beneficent being, who should 
rightly call for the adoration of the true in soul. 
Tlaloc, god of rains, and the many-named gods of 
the heavenly vasg in which the rains were stored on 
high, were conspicuous figures in the American 

Virgil speaks of " Oceanus, /afe?- reruw " ; and in 
the Finnish epic, the Kalewala, it reads: "Three 
infants came forth from the same womb ; water the 
oldest, fire the youngest, and iron between them."f 

Water also entered into numberless rites of puri- 
fication, of penitence, and sanctification. :{: Baptism 

* The um or vase was, in classical antiquity, the emblem of the 
fecundating waters (Guigniaut, Religions de V Antiquiti, tom. i., p. 
509). Vases full of water were interred with the dead in Peru to 
symbolise the life beyond. Meyen, Die Ureinwohner von Peru, p. 

f Kalewala, Runa iv. 

X Probably for this reason the ceremonial law of the Bushmen, 
especially that relating to puberty and marriage, enjoins "to avoid 
the wrath of the Water." Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, p. 18. 

Primitive Religious Expression 145 

by sprinkling or immersion belongs to the most 
ancient sacred rites ; and the use of the fluid in 
divination, lustration, and libation was world-wide. 

The most venerable god of Chaldean mythology 
was Ea, lord of the earth and " the waters under the 
earth." He was the deity in whose gift were the 
harvest, the germination of seeds, the fertility of the 
soil. Extending the idea to embrace all life, the 
Aztecs worshipped the earth as Tonantzin, Our Be- 
loved Mother, and the Peruvians as Mama Cocha, 
Mother Earth. From her womb, said they, do all 
that live proceed, and to her silent breast will all 
again return. Far below her opaque surface is the 
realm which the sun lights at night, the abode of 
happy souls, said the Aztecs, ruled by the clement 
Quetzalcoatl, who there abides until the time fixed 
for his return to men. 

From beneath the earth, repeat a hundred mytho- 
logies, did the first of men emerge seeking the light 
above but losing the joy below. So that in such 
distant points as Kamtschatka and the Andaman 
Islands we meet the same prophetic myth that at 
the end of the world the present earth will be turned 
upside down, and its then inhabitants will rejoice in 
the perennial warmth and light of the happier under- 

♦Compare Klemm, Culturgesckickte, Bd. ii., s. 315 (after Steller), 
with Man, in Jour. Anthrop. Soc, vol. xii., p. 163. 

146 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Intimately associated with the worship of the 
four elements, and also with the myths of the 
cosmical concepts, we trace through primitive re- 
ligions the sacredness and symboHsm of colours. 
Everywhere, in all cults, they are connected with 
certain trains of religious thoughts, certain express- 
ions of religious emotions, though by no means 
always the same. But I can only refer, in passing, 
to this extended subject, which has not yet received 
the psychologic analysis which its importance 

J. Stones and Rocks. — When we turn from these 
universal elements, which we can readily conceive 
portrayed with some commensurate greatness the 
idea of the supernatural, to such a gross and material 
object as a stone, a common stone or rock, it is at 
first difificult to understand its wide-spread acceptance 
as a symbol of the divine. But if we reflect on its 
hardness and durability, on its colour and lustre, and 
on the strange shapes in which it is found, we can see 
why it was so chosen. 

In the early Semitic records we often read of 
Beth-el, the House of God. This was usually no- 

* The specific effect of certain colours on the sub-consciousness, and 
thus on the religious emotions, is practically recognised in sacred art ; 
but so far as I know this has not been made a subject of study by the 
experimental psychologist. Allowance must always be made for 
association of ideas ; as when the Mozambique negroes paint the 
images of their bad spirits white, on account of their hatred of 
Europeans ! 

Primitive Religious Expression 147 

thing but an amorphous stone, which the god was 
supposed to inhabit. The holy Kaaba of Mahomet- 
anism is no doubt such an one, a rough, black piece 
of rock. The sacred image of Diana of the Ephesi- 
ans was nothing more, and the Latin father Arnobius 
tells us that the image of earth, the Great Mother, 
brought to Rome from Phrygia with sumptuous 
pomp, was merely " a small black stone, rough and 
unhewn." * 

To this instance, where the stone represents the 
Earth as the common mother, we find many exact 
parallels in savage faiths. In the Tahitian myths, 
^apa, Rock, was the name of the wife of the first 
man, mother of the race of men, and under this 
form she was adored. f The Zulus considered cer- 
tain stones as sacred, because from one such, which 
split in two, their ancestors emerged. Their neigh- 
bours, the Basutos, entertain the same notion of a 
spheroidal granite boulder in their country, and their 
worship of it consists in dancing around it and spit- 
ting at it. The Indians of Colombia asserted that 
all men were once stones, and all will again become 
such. X Those of Guatemala were wont to place a 
small polished stone in the mouth of the dying to 

* Arnobius, Adversus Gentes, lib. vii., cap. 49. 

f Fomander, The Polynesian J?ace, u. s. ; Hale, Etknog. and 
PhiloL, p. 25. 

\ Calloway, J?elig. Systtin of the Amazulus, p. 34 ; Hahn, Tsuni 
IIGoam, p. 91 ; Garcia, Origen de los Indios, lib. iv., cap. 26. 

148 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

receive the soul, and thus supply it with a perma- 
nent abode. 

The most common of mascots is a " lucky stone," 
and this goes back to the time when such was the 
favourite material for household fetishes. To this 
day the Canaras of India believe that the Bhutas, or 
familiar spirits, inhabit rough stones, and in Mela- 
nesia similar stones are held to be the abode of the 
vui or demonic intelligences.* 

Another source of the sacredness of stones was 
their identification as "thunderbolts." Certain ones 
were believed to be the missiles hurled from the sky 
by the Thunder God in the lightning flash ; though 
the Peruvians had the prettier belief that, as the 
product of the heavenly fire, they must retain its 
ardency, and therefore used them as love charms, f 
FHnt, which when struck with a bit of pyrites emits 
a spark, and meteoric stones were especially recog- 
nised by these marks as of celestial origin. 

Such a flint stone, say the legends of the Nahuas, 
in the beginning of the world fell from heaven to 
earth ; as it broke to pieces each fragment rose to 
life as a demi-god. All men, added the Mexicans, 
came originally from such stones. % 

* Jour. Anthrop. Inst., vols, v., p. 412, x., p. 280. 

f They were called hiiacauqui. Montesinos, Mcms. Hist, sur 
Vancien Perou, p. 161. 

J Garcia, Origen de los Indies, lib. iv., cap. 26; Torqucmada, 
Monarquia Indiana, lib. vi., cap. 41. 

Primitive Religious Expression 149 

Yet another origin of god-stones was the custom 
of erecting them as monuments of the dead. We 
can see this in its simphcity in Southern Polynesia. 
When a chief dies, a coral slab about three feet long 
IS placed erect over his grave — a tombstone, in other 
words. This is decked with flowers and garlands, 
food is offered it, and invocations pronounced before 
it, precisely as to a divinity. This is because the 
spirit of the departed chief is believed to dwell 
within it.* 

It was equally sacred when the stone was a mere 
cenotaph erected in memory of a departed chief or 
saint. Such are found in all lands and in all cults. 
They are the menJiirs of the Celts, and the grave- 
stones of the Koders of India, often painted in 
strong colours, f 

Certain stones, especially those we call " precious," 
the gems, have physical traits of transparency, lustre, 
and colour, which have ever made them prized, and 
led to the belief that they exercise peculiar powers 
on the mind. 

Throughout Asia and America the varieties of 
jade or nephrite, a greenish, semi-translucent mineral, 
has had a wide-spread reputation for sacred meaning 
and magical potency. The cJialcJihiJiite of the Mexi- 

* Hale, Ethnog. and Philol. of the U. S. Explor. Exped., p. 97. 
f Hopkins, Religions of India, p. 97. 

150 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

cans, small green stones, believed to control the 
weather and representative of the goddess of the 
waters and the rains, were of this material. 

By attentively gazing into the transparency of a 
quartz crystal, the Maya shaman of Yucatan still 
believes that he will see in its depths, unfolded by 
the god whose dwelling it is, the picture of the 
future and the decrees of fate. 

4.. Trees and Plants. — Primitive man was arboreal. 
A hollow tree was his home, its branches his place 
of refuge, its fruit his sustenance. Naturally the 
tree became associated with his earliest religious 
thoughts. It represented his protecting deity. He 
would not willingly injure it. When the Mandans 
cut a pole for their tents, they swath it in bandages 
so that its pain may be allayed. The Hidatsas 
would not cut down a large cottonwood tree, be- 
cause it guarded their tribe. The Algonquins 
decked an old oak with offerings suspended to its 
branches, for the same reason.* 

Trees from their dripping foliage, and because 
their shade was associated with the grey of a cloudy 
day, were believed to make the rains and thus to 
refresh the fields and fertilise the seeds of the vege- 
table world. The step was easily taken to extend 

* Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 241 ; Matthews, Ethnog. of the 
Hidatsa, p. 48, etc. 

Primitive Religious Expression 151 

this to all germs, animal as well as vegetable. Thus 
the tree came to symbolise the source of Life, and 
to represent both the clouds and rains and the 
fatherhood of men and brutes. It could cause 
flocks to multiply and the barren womb to conceive.* 

Among the Mexicans, the tree was invoked as 
Tota, " Our Father," and was spoken of as god of 
the waters and the green foliage. Some particular 
species was chosen as the totem of various American 
gentes, and in the earhest legends of Greece and 
Persia sundry famous families traced their descent 
from a tree. 

These ideas led to the mythical association of the 
tree with the origin of life, and with various object- 
ive expressions of this in the cult. 

In most American stories where we hear of the 
first of men emerging from the under-world, it is by 
climbing a tree. This tree also supports the sky, 
and is so represented in the native books of the 
Mayas and Nahuas.f The Yurucares of Bolivia re- 
late that their god Tiri, when he would people the 
earth with men, cleft a tree, and from the opening 
came forth the various tribes of the world. ^ 

* See Frazer, T/i^ Golden Bough, passim. 

f See, for illustrative examples, my Primer of Mayan Hiero- 
glyphics, p. 49, etc. ; and comp. Keary, Outlines of Primitive Belief, 
p. 63, sq. 

X A. d'Orbigny, L'Homme Am&icain, tome ii., p. 365. 

152 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

When the tree was not worshipped as itself, but 
under a symbolic form, this was usually as the sacred 
pole or the cross. 

The sacred pole was found widely among the 
American Indians. It was planted in the centre of 
their villages, or, if the tribe was nomadic, it was car- 
ried about in an ark or wrapping and set up in a tent 
by itself in their encampment. It typified the com- 
munal life of the tribe and represented the " mys- 
tery tree," which was intimately associated in their 
legendary origin.* 

In early art the cross as a sacred design is often 
derived from the conventional figure of a tree, and 
symbolises the force of life, the four winds, the rain, 
and the waters. This is notably the case in Mexico 
and Central America, where we have abundant tes- 
timony that this is the origin and meaning of the 
cross-symbol so frequent on their monuments. 

The sacred tree is a conspicuous figure in the 
earliest bas-reliefs of the Chaldeans. It is often 
represented in a cruciform shape, and frequently a 
winged seraph is holding up to it a pine cone, the 
fruit of the sacred cedar, either as an emblem of fer- 
tility, or, more likely, as an aspergillum, with which 

* Dorsey, Siouan Cults, pp. 390, 455 ; Alice C. Fletcher in Proc. 
Anter. Assoc. Adv. Science, 1S95 and 1S96 ; Brinton, Myths of New 
World, pp. 118, 119, and Nagualism, pp. 42, 47, 48. 

Primitive Religious Expression 153 

to bedew it from the holy water, which is carried in 
a bucket in the other hand.* 

That a tree is a " thing of hfe " it is hard for us 
even yet to doubt, and we can scarcely avoid being ^ 
attracted by Fechner's pleasing theories of a " plant- '^ 
soul."f The sound of the wind in the leaves, rising 
from the softest of mystic whispers to the roaring of 
the wild blast, seems to proceed from some mind or 
spirit. The Australians say that these are the voices 
of the ghosts of the dead, communing one with an- 
other, or warning the living of what is to come. 
They and other tribes also believe that it is through 
understanding this mysterious language that the 
" doctors," or shamans, communicate with the world 
of spirits and derive their supernatural knowledge. :j: 
Hence we can easily see arose the myth of " the tree 
of knowledge," which we find in the earliest Semitic 
annals and monuments. It belonged to the same 
species as the oracular oak of Zeus at Dodona, and 
the laurel of Apollo at Delphi, from the whispers of 
whose leaves the sibyls interpreted the sayings of 
the gods. 

* As suggested by E. Bonavia, Flora of the Assyrian Monuments 
(1894). This is a more likely interpretation than that of Dr. Tylor, 
that the conical object is the inflorescence of the male date palm ; as 
it is in some bas-reliefs shown presented toward a city gate, a per- 
son, etc. 

f Fechner, Nana, oder das Seelenlehen der Pflanze. 

X Curr, The Australian Race, vol. ii., p. 199 ; Palmer in Jour. 
Anthrop. Inst., vol. xiii., p. 292. 

154 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Not only was a tree the earliest house of man, it 
was also his first temple. That very word " temple " 
bears witness to the fact, for it is from the Greek 
TSJU8V0?, a sacred grove set apart as a place of wor- 
ship. The aspiring lines of Gothic cathedrals simu- 
late the trunks of slender and majestic trees carrying 
the eye and the soul aloft, and by their overreaching 
limbs shutting out the glare of day, thus leading 
the mind to holy meditation. Tacitus describes the 
Germans as building no temples, but worshipping 
their mysterious divinity, sccrctiim ilhid, in the gloom 
of the forest. 

5. Places and Sites. — Early man stays close to the 
soil. It is proved, by the distribution of the oldest 
stone implements, that primitive tribes were not gen- 
erally migratory, and had little intercourse with their 
neighbours. Hence the more closely did they study 
their immediate surroundings ; and a spot which was 
marked by some peculiar feature was soon associated 
with their all-permeating religious notions, and was 
deemed sacred. 

These features can usually be easily recognised. 
A spring, well, or fountain, where from dry earth, or 
out of the rock, pours forth the crystal fluid on 
which depends the life of man and brute and plant, 
was everywhere a holy spot. The brook which 
flowed from it, chattering its endless tale among the 

Primitive Religious Expression 155 

pebbles, was scarcely less so. It was directly said 
and oft repeated by the Greeks that the viantcia, 
the holy inspiration, was imparted at the fountain of 
Parnassus or at the Pierian spring. The Moxos of 
Bolivia claim descent from the stream on which their 
villages are situated, a more than figurative express- 
ion of their dependence on it for food and drink.* 

The sacred character of " high places," such as 
hills, mountains, or elevated plateaux, is intimately 
connected with the universal belief in "the Father 
in Heaven," the sky as the home and the throne of 
the greatest divinities. I have already referred to 
the terrestrial " Hills of Heaven," located, as a rule, 
within the tribal area, f 

A high hill or mountain, regarded by itself as a 
personality, would justly be looked upon as of ex- 
traordinary might, and invoked as a potent aid in 
the undertakings of life. In the invocations of the 
Quiches of Central America, who live in the midst 
of lofty peaks, over one hundred of them are named 
and implored for aid. The " Heart of the Hills " is 
the title which the ancient Mexicans applied to one 
of their greatest gods. 

* A. d'Orbigny, V Homme Am/ricain, torn, i., p. 240. 

f A careful discussion of " Ilohencultus," by Baron von Andrian, 
may be found in the Bericht der Deutschen Anthrop. Gesellschaft, 
August, i88g. He believes the earliest form to have been that of 
the individualised height ; later, that of its cosmic relations. 

156 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

A third and important trait which gave them 
sacredness is the strength of the echo which is re- 
turned from their narrow gorges or precipitous sides. 
Mountain worship is very generally oracular in char- 
acter. Classical and familiar examples of this are 
the Pythoness and the Roman Sibyl. 

Mountain caves are natural temples, and as the 
cave, like the hollow tree, is a ready-built house for 
the wandering savage, so it is also marvellously 
adapted to his ends as a shrine. Throughout Mexico 
and Central America we find the caves chosen as the 
temples of the mightiest deities and the depositories 
of the holiest relics.* 

The sacredness of some spots arose from their 
adaptation to certain rites, religious or magical. 
Thus, for the haruspices to practise their specialty 
in divination, they must choose a spot where they 
could watch the flight of birds. The sacrifices to 
the god of heaven should be under the open sky, 
and the Mayas of Yucatan believed that when the 
sun was in the zenith and the sacred fire was kindled 
beneath it, the ineffable Deity descended in the form 
of a bright plumaged ara and partook of the offering. 

Places of this kind were of course laid under tabu, 
and thus reserved for their sacred uses only. Some- 

*0n the Mexican cave-god, Oztoteotl, see my Nagualism, pp. 

Primitive Religious Expression 157 

times they were enclosed, but often the community 
was sufficiently informed about them to make this 

The fame of these sacred places and the powers of 
the gods who dwelt within them extended widely 
even in very primitive conditions. This gave rise to 
the custom of pilgrimages, quite as familiar to the 
American Indians before Columbus as to the Europe- 
ans of the Middle Ages. There were famous holy 
places on the island of Cozumel and in Colombia 
and Peru, to which pious palmers wended their way 
over many hundred miles of weary journeying. 

The local divinity naturally drew his colouring 
and his main attributes from the spot itself, and 
those in turn gave a similar local physiognomy to 
his rites and functions. We have thus a kind of 
geographical character impressed on early religions, 
which their later developments retained long after 
they had been severed from their first meanings and 
had drifted to other climes and alien races. 

6. The Lower Animals. — The primitive mind did 
not recognise any deep distinction between the lower 
animals and man. The savage knew that the beast 
was his superior in many points, in craft and strength, 
in fleetness and intuition, and he regarded it with 
respect. To him, the brute had a soul not inferior 
to his own, and a language which the wise among 

158 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

men might on occasion learn. The strange powers 
and mysterious faculties they often possess were to 
him inexpHcable by any other doctrine than that 
they were divine ; therefore, with wide unanimity, he 
placed certain species of animals nearer to God than 
is man himself, or even identified them with the 
manifestations of the Highest. 

None was in this respect a greater favourite than 
the bird. Its soaring flight, its strange or sweet 
notes, the marked hues of its plumage, combined to 
render it a fit emblem of power and beauty. 

The Dyaks of Borneo trace their descent to Singa- 
lang Burong, the god of birds ; and birds as the 
ancestors of the totemic family are extremely com- 
mon among the American Indians. The Eskimos 
say that they have the faculty of soul or life beyond 
all other creatures, and in most primitive tribes 
they have been regarded as the messengers of 
the divine and the special purveyors of the vital 

According to the myths of the Polynesians, the 
gods in the old times used to speak to man through 
the carols of the feathered songsters ; and every- 
where, to be able to understand the language of 
birds was equivalent to being able to converse with 
the gods. 

The chief god of the Murray River Australians 

Primitive Religious Expression 159 

was Nourali. He was immortal, self-created, and the 
creator of all. The form under which they conceived 
him was that of a bird, a crow or eagle. Among 
nearly all the tribes of the North-west Coast and the 
adjacent interior of British America, the creation of 
the world is attributed to a raven, Yetl, who is per- 
sonated in the dark thunder-cloud. 

South of them, in the wide-spread Algonquin stock, 
this " thunder-bird " is a conspicuous figure in art and 
myth ; and we could pursue our way quite to the 
extreme south of the continent, and everywhere 
among the aboriginal tribes we should discover similar 
sacred associations connected with the birds. 

They are universal in religions, and those which 
we meet in Christian art, the eagle, the dove, etc., 
carry with them significations allied to those they 
bear in earlier and primitive symbolism.* 

Closely connected with these ideas was the rever- 
ence of the egg as the symbol of the origin of life. 
Plutarch tells us that in the Bacchic mysteries the 
egg represented matter in its germinal condition, that 
is, the potentiality of life; and this meaning we have 
retained with the symbol in our customs relating to 
Easter eggs on the morning of the Resurrection. 

The derivation from the observation of the bird 
brooding on its nest is obvious, and no wonder there- 
* Walcott, Sacred Arckaology, pp. 233, 236, etc. 

i6o Religions of Primitive Peoples 

fore that the symbol with allied myths and rites ex- 
tends through all religions. 

In the creation legend of the Yaros, a Dravida 
tribe of Northern India, the goddess Nustoo, who 
created the world, came into life from a self-evolved 
egg, and dwelt on the petals of a water-lily until she 
had formed and moulded the land for her abode. 
The Dyaks of Borneo relate that after the Supreme 
Being had created the world, the god Ranying de- 
scended to the new earth and formed there seven 
eggs, which contained the germs of man and woman, 
all animals and plants.* 

This example, of the bird, which I have given in 
some detail, will illustrate the cult of an animal form. 
It by no means stands alone in its universality. Per- 
haps even more striking is the so-called " serpent- 
worship," which has occupied the attention of so 
many writers. The adoration of the serpent-symbol 
is wonderfully wide-spread. Scarcely a native tribe 
can be named in regions where this animal is known, 
which does not pay it some sort of reverence. Some 
writers have traced the sentiment back to the anthro- 
poid progenitor of man, supposed to dwell in tropical 
forests abounding in venomous snakes. But into this 
extensive question I cannot enter. 

* Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal, p. 59 ; Ling Roth, Natives of 
Sarawak, vol. ii., App., p. clxx. 

Primitive Religious Expression i6i 

The symbolic value of most animal deities can be 
traced to some peculiar trait of the species. Thus 
the lizard, very prominent in the religions of Poly- 
nesia, Australia, and South Africa, derived its signi- 
ficance from the nocturnal habits of some species and 
the diurnal habits of others.* In America, the frog 
was the symbol of water, over a vast area ; and that 
it has precisely the same meaning in Australia, will 
cause no astonishment when we recall its amphibious 
nature. The fish, as the emblem of life, familiar in 
Christian symbolism, dates back to earliest Chaldean 
times, when Cannes, a form of the god Ea, appeared 
as half fish and half man, and is a parallel of the fish- 
god who sows the seed of man in the flood myths of 
both the Brahmans and the Mexicans. It is but an- 
other expression of the recognition of water as the 
source or condition of life. 

The totemic animals, or " eponymous ancestors," 
of the clans or gentes among the American Indians, 
are not to be taken literally. They were not under- 
stood as animals of the sort we see to-day, but as 
mythical, ancient beings, of supernatural attributes, 
who clothed themselves in those forms for their own 

7. Ma7i. — That when the brute was at times in- 

* M. d' Estrey, in L' Anthropologic, torn, iii., pp. 712, sq., has 
made an interesting study of the lizard symbol in Polynesia, to which 
much could be added from other fields of primitive life. 

1 62 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

vested with the aureole of the Divine, man himself 
should at times partake of its glory, need be ex- 
pected. But here let an important distinction be 
drawn. Never as man was he clothed in the attrib- 
utes of Deity, but just in so far as he was deemed 
to be more than man. The Latin saying, deus homini 
dens, never was true anywhere in its literal sense. 
Anthropism never existed in any religion. Man or 
the likeness of man was never worshipped by reason 
of any human attribute, but solely for those believed 
to be more than human, superhuman. 

The tribes of Polynesia did adore their chieftains; 
the ancient Egyptians and many another people did 
pay their rulers divine honour, and rank them among 
the gods ; but always because they considered them 
partakers of the divine nature, sharers in that which 
is ever beyond mere humanity.* 

This profound distinction between the human and 
the humanised divine was sought to be expressed by 
most tribes by fashioning the images of the gods in 
vaguely human shapes, but with non-human ele- 

* As Keary well says: "The essence of primitive belief lies 
not in any likeness to humanity, but in differences from it." Out- 
Hues of Prim. Belief, p. 26. The Neo-Platonic doctrine of " eman- 
ation " led to the belief that a man might become so filled with the 
divine essence as to become divine himself. This was the claim of 
Simon the Magician, who "became confessedly a god to his silly 
followers," says Hippolytus in \\\% Refutation of all Heresies, bk. vi., 
cap. 13. 

Primitive Religious Expression 163 

ments. Diana with her hundred breasts, Brahma 
with his dozens of arms, Janus with his double face, 
and scores of other instances will at once rise in the 
memory. Enormous size, impossible features, ac- 
cessories such as wings, tails, multiple heads and 
limbs, indicate not, as some would have it, a de- 
praved artistic taste, but the effort of the pious 
carver to express in his work the non-human and 
superhuman character of the being he sets before 
the adoring eyes of the votaries. 

It was only in a few gifted and glorious natures, 
notably the ancient GreeL3, that the true distinction 
rose to full consciousness in the artistic soul — that 
in their corporeal forms the gods differ from men 
in their superior and matchless beauty; in their per- 
fect symmetry and noble proportions. They recog- 
nised that there is something in beauty itself, which, 
in its highest expression, partakes truly and really of 
the divine, and leads man to the contemplation of 
laws beyond those of nature or of life, laws which are 
the expression of the deep harmonies of the universe. 

This was the triumph of anthropomorphism. Pur- 
suing the merely objective, the merely animal, it was 
led by the unseen hand which guides man to his 
destiny into the path which conducted far beyond 
what the senses can teach, into the realm of the ideal 
and the eternal, to 

164 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

" the measures and the forms, 
Which the abstract intelligence supplies, 
Whose kingdom is where Time and Space are not." 

Such are some of the numberless objects with 
which primitive man associated his idea of the 
Divine. The nature of this association must not be 
misunderstood. I repeat what I have already said, 
that it was not an identification of the spiritual with 
the material. The object Avas hallowed, not from 
anything in itself, but as the medium of invisible 

8. Life and its Transmission. — What Professor 
Otfried Miiller has so well said of the oldest forms 
of the Greek and Etruscan religions holds true in all 
primitive faiths : " To them, divinity seemed a world 
of Life, blossoming forth from an impenetrable 
depth into definite forms and individual express- 
ions." * All gods and holy objects were merely 
vehicles through which Life and Power poured into 
the world from the inexhaustible and impersonal 
source of both. 

I will illustrate this first from the very ancient 
religion of the Etruscans and then point out suf- 
ficient analogies in modern savage tribes. 

That venerable people, whose massive cities built 
before Rome was founded still survive, held that 

* Die Etrusker, Ld. ii., s. HI. 

Primitive Religious Expression 165 

there was a single source of all existence, animate 
and inanimate. Its immediate agents were the mys- 
terious " veiled gods," whose number was unknown 
and whose names were never uttered. They were 
the channels of the divine Will, through which it 
passed to the twelve highest known gods, called the 
Consentes or Companions, and these transmitted it, 
through those innumerable spirits, whom the Latins 
called Genii, to its realisation in objective existence. 

The word genius means a producer or begetter ; 
but not in any literal sense, for not only every man 
and animate being had such a genius, but also every 
plant, every city, every place, every inanimate object, 
had one also. Clearly, therefore, the word refers to 
an act of the creative power in the abstract or spiritual 
sense. The genii were the proximate causes of ex- 
istence, but they were themselves " emanations from 
the great gods," and these in turn were merely the 
channels of the inexhaustible source of all life 

This was the doctrine of the Etruscans and also 
of the Greeks. I may compare it with the belief of 
one of the most brutish of barbarian hordes, the 
Itelmen of Kamtschatka. 

Beyond all visible things, say they, is the ultimate 
Power, Dusdachtschish, invisible, remote. No wor- 
ship and no offerings are tendered him other than 

1 66 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

that certain pillars are erected and decked with 
flowers and garlands in his honour. Their Jupiter 
is Kutka. It was said of him that he had married 
all creatures and was the common father of all. It 
was he who made land and water in their present 
forms and invented all arts. To him the visible 
world owed its existence, though not its origin. 
Many discreditable stories were told of him, and he 
is as much cursed for the evils of life as praised for 
its advantages. It is he who finds souls for all 
existences, and preserves their spirits when the body 

We must not be blinded to the true significance 
of such myths by the often material, coarse, and 
vulgar images under which they are presented. In- 
deed, if they are properly comprehended, we may 
explain and redeem from obloquy much in the 
heathen legends which Arnobius * and other fathers 
of the Church denounced with bitter and vehement 
imprecation. We should consider whether they are 
not naive symbols, chosen, with a crude innocence of 
evil, to convey objectively the idea of the eternally 
renewed life of nature. 

This reflection will explain to us the true signi- 

* Speaking of Jupiter, this fiery preacher exclaims : " Nor is there 
any kind of baseness in which you do not associate his name with 
passionate lusts." — Adversus Genies, lib. v., cap. 22. 

Primitive Religious Expression 167 

ficance of those objects from ancient and savage cults 
which are preserved in the locked rooms of museums, 
in their secret drawers and curtained cases. They are 
too apt to be construed as proofs of impurity and 
degradation. Such an interpretation would be sadly 
at variance with the fact. 

There were, indeed, and often, licentious rites, 
deliberate indecencies, practised under the cloak of 
religion by unscrupulous rulers and debased priests. 
These were alienations and prostitutions of religion. 
In the genuine and primitive faiths, the symbols of 
the reproduction and transmission of life were fre- 
quent and public, and were not associated with 
thoughts or acts of debauchery. They were visible 
emblems of that Spirit of Life which, beyond all else, 
was the unifying instinct of religious expression. 

This instinct led man everywhere to call upon God 
as Father, as parent of whatever is, " Pan-genitor," 
as he is styled in the Orphic hymns. In every race, 
in all ages, have men's prayers ascended to " Our 
Father who art in heaven." 

Were we to listen to the rude Australian, we 
should hear him invoking Papang, "Father"; or 
Mamin-gata, or Mungatt-naur, " Our Father," in 
his various dialects. Among the Aztecs of Mexico, 
it would be To4a, " Our Father " ; with the Ameri- 
can tribes of the north, "grand-father," or "great 

1 68 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

father " ; in the Brahmanas of India, Pita, " Father " ; 
with the Greeks and Romans, Dios Pater, " the 
heavenly Father " ; and with the northern Vikings, 
Odin All-father.'^ 

But a vital distinction has been claimed to exist 
between such terms and that fatherhood of God 
which we have been taught to acknowledge. " In 
heathen religions," asserts an eminent writer, " the 
fatherhood of the gods is physical fatherhood only " ; 
and this is repeated by many Christian theologians 
and commentators, f 

It is easy to refute this assertion. It would not 
have been made but for religious partisanship. 
Ethnologists are well aware that the word for 
" Father" in primitive life is much more frequently 
a term of respect, applied to elders, than necessarily 
denotive of kinship. The father. Pita, of the Brah- 
manas is at once the Creator, Preserver, and De- 
stroyer of all things, and far remote from physical 
parentage;}:; neither in American nor Australian 
myths is " the Father above " identified as the 
ancestor of the gens ; among the Zulus, the best 
instructed missionaries report that Unkululu, the 

* Howitt,in Jour. Anthrop. Inst., vol. xiii., pp. 192, 194 ; vol. xiv., 

P- 313- 

f Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 41 ; Herzog und 
Plitt, Keal-Encyclopddie fiir Prot. T/ieologie, s. v. Gebet, etc. 

X Hopkins, Religions of India, p. 412. 

Primitive Religious Expression 169 

" Father " of their creeds, was not meant literally so, 
but only as " the means of helping the race into 
being"*; and this is the general sense of the term 
in every instance which I have analysed. 

As some sort of a crude effort to express this 
comprehensibly, we find that frequently in primitive 
myths and art the god, regarded as the creator, is 
shown or spoken of as " androgynous," — that is, of 
both sexes at once. He is addressed as " father- 
mother," or " mother-father," — bi-sexual rather than 
non-sexual in nature, f Such expressions are of con- 
stant occurrence, and some of the most objectiona- 
ble portions of the ritual and of idolatrous art arose 
from the effort to translate this mystical character- 
istic into objective forms. 

Yet it remains true that the sexual antithesis, 
that which mythologists call the worship of " the 
reciprocal principles of nature," is interwoven with 
the fibre of nearly all religions, primitive or devel- 

* Calloway, Religious System of the Amazulu, p. 34. 

f As examples, I may name Unkululu, among the Zulus (Callo- 
way, Relig. System of the Amazulu, pp. 40, 43) ; Singbonga, of the 
Munga-Kohls (Jellinghaus, in Zeit. fiir Ethnologie, Bd. iii., p. 330) ; 
the Hunahpu of the Quiches {Popol Vjih, p. i) ; the Ahsonnuth of 
the Navahoes (S/A Rep. Bur. Ethnol., p. 275) ; etc. I have dis- 
cussed the psychic origin of androgynous deities in The Religious 
Sentiment, pp. 66, sqq. It was also strong in the early Christian 
Church, Origen and others of the fathers teaching that the Holy 
Ghost was the feminine principle in God (C. J, Wood, Survivals in 
Christianity, p. 63). 

170 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

oped. Under one form or another, it is the impulse 
which ever appeals most potently to the human 

The sentiment which attracts the one sex to the 
other, the passion of Love, exceeds all others in 
the power it exerts on the individual life. This 
it is, which in some of its forms, rude or refined, is 
at the root of half the expressions of the religious 
sentiment. We may trace it from crude and coarse 
beginnings in the genesiac cults of primitive peo- 
ples, through ever nobler and more delicate express- 
ions, up through the celibate sacrifices of both 
sexes, spouses of God,* until in its complete expans- 
ion it reaches the perfect agape, where the union of 
the human with the divine in the life eternal, here 
on earth, or beyond, one and the same, is beheved 
to have been reached, f 

This, the loftiest of all the religious mystical 
ideals is but the result of a gradual evolution from 

* These were frequent in quite primitive faiths. Some of the 
priests of ancient Mexico, for example, wholly extirpated the geni- 
talia. — Davila Padilla, Hisl. de la Prov. de Mexico, lib. ii., cap. 88. 
Comp. Charlevoix, Journal Hi storiqiii\ p. 350. 

f I have pointed out that in various American dialects, as the 
Chipeway and Cree, the Maya, Quichua, etc., there are words of 
native origin, which were used to convey the notion of the love of 
the gods in pure and high senses. See the article on " The Concept- 
ion of Love in American Languages," in Essays of an Afuericanist, 
pp. 416, 421, 428, etc. 

Primitive Religious Expression 171 

those low beginnings which I have mentioned as 
perceptible in most primitive religions. 

It is the ripened manifestation of that profound 
psychical truth, so incomparably expressed in the 
lines of the philosopher-poet, Coleridge : 

*' All thoughts, all passions, all delights. 
Whatever stirs this mortal frame, 
All are but ministers of Love, 
And feed his sacred flame." 

Primitive Religious Expression : In the Rite. 

Contents : — The Ritual a Mimicry of the Gods — Magical Rites — 
Division of Rites into I. Communal, and II. Personal. I. 
Communal Rites : i. The Asseml^Lige — The Liturgy — 2. The 
Festal Function — Joyous Character of Primitive Rites — Com- 
mensality — The "Ceremonial Circuit" — Masks and Dramas — 
3. The Sacrifice — Early and Later Forms — 4. The Communion 
with God — Pagan Eucharists. II. Personal Rites : i. Relating 
to Birth — Vows and Baptism — 2. Relating to Naming — The 
Personal Name — 3. Relating to Puberty — Initiation of Boys 
and Girls — 4. Relating to Marriage — Marriage "by Capture" 
and " by Purchase" — 5. Relating to Death — Early Cannibalism 
— Sepulchral Monuments — Funerary Ceremonies — Modes of 
Burial — Customs of Mourning. 

WE have seen how the rehgious sentiment 
finds expression in the Word and in the 
Object. It remains to consider it as revealed in the 
Act. This is known as the Rite or the Ritual. It 
is a combination of forms and ceremonies collect- 
ively known as Worship. 

So important is it that one eminent German 
authority has declared the ritual to be " the source 
of all religions"*; and Dr. W. Robertson Smith, 

*Otto Gruppe, quoted by Schrader. 

Primitive Religious Expression 17; 

also a profound student of the subject, has main- 
tained that "in the study of ancient rehgions we 
must begin, not with the myth, but with the ritual " ; 
because, he adds, " in almost every case the myth 
was derived from the ritual, and not the ritual from 
the myth." * 

If I do not follow these authorities, it is because 
my own studies have led me to a different opinion 
from theirs. I beheve that every rite is originally 
based on a myth. In later days the myth was often 
obscured or lost, and another coined to explain the 
rite ; and this second growth is what has misled the 
authors I have quoted. 

The evidence which has convinced me is, that in 
truly primitive condition the rite is constantly a 
mimicry of the supposed doings of the god ; or it is 
a means of summoning him according to accepted 
statements ; or it is a method of communing with the 
Divine, plainly drawn from the facts of suggestion 
and sub-conscious mentality. Occasionally it is a 
magical procedure to constrain the deities ; but this 
is rare in primitive conditions. f 

The mimicry or imitative origin of rites is well 

* Religion of the Semites, p. i8. 

f The idea of mimicry survived long, and indeed still exists, in what 
is called "sympathetic magic"; when, for instance, to produce 
blindness in an enemy, an image is made of him and its eyes trans- 
fixed with thorns. Compare Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. I2. 

1 74 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

illustrated in that in use for "rain-making," one of 
the commonest of all. In periods of drought, "The 
Indian rain-maker mounts to the roof of his hut, and 
rattling vigorously a dry gourd containing pebbles 
to represent the thunder, scatters water through a 
reed on the ground beneath, as he imagines up 
above in the clouds do the spirits of the storm."* 

The Australian rite is analogous. The women of 
the tribe erect a hut of leaves and branches, in which 
are placed some stones. The men enter, and while 
some scatter bird's down in the air, others scarify 
their arms and let the blood drop upon the stones. 
These are then placed high up in trees, and the hut 
demolished. The symbolism is, that the hut repre- 
sents the firmament ; the down, the light cirrus 
clouds which precede the storm ; the stones, the 
heavy rain-clouds ; the dropping blood, the ferti- 
lising rain.f This is again an imitation of their 
myth of the making of rain by the celestial powers. 

Very many rites are of this character. Others 
again are of the nature of an invitation to the 
divinity, based on beliefs and narratives of his sup- 
posed actions or customs. The Mayas of Yucatan, 
for instance, had a deity doubtless of solar character, 
who bore the name, " The Eye of the Day." The 

* Myths of the Ne-w World, p. 17. 

f Curr, The Australian Race, vol. ii., pp. 66, 67. 

Primitive Religious Expression 175 

myth stated that his form was that of a bird of . 
brilliant plumage, and that he was nearest the earth 
at high noon about the summer solstice. At that 
time, therefore, they constructed an altar in an open 
spot, built upon it a fire and placed the sacred offer- 
ings. The people then witnessed the gorgeous 
parrot, the sacred ara, descend through the air to 
take the offerings, who was none other than the god 
himself, responding to the invitation. * 

The magical class of rites was common in the 
Orient. To this day in China it is believed that if a 
military camp be laid out in a particular form, and 
under the proper auspicious conditions, not only is 
it impregnable by foes, but neither gods nor demons 
can prevail against it. Many later rituals are thus 
magical, or have magical elements in them by the 
aid of which the celebrant claims to control the 
powers divine. 

The Mexican Nagualist, or priest, for instance, 
after he has performed his magical rites and spoken 
the words of power, does not hesitate to shout : 
" Lo ! I myself am here ! I am most furious ! I 
make the loudest noise ! I respect no one ! Even 
sticks and stones tremble before me ! What god or 
mighty demon dares face me ? " f Here, through 

*Cogo]ludo, Historia de Yucatan, lib. iv., cap. viii. 
f Brinton, Nagualism, p. 53. 

176 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

the power of the rite, the celebrant has become as 
one of the gods themselves. 

These examples further serve to illustrate a funda- 
mental distinction in rites themselves. It has been 
well expressed by a German writer, Dr. Freihold, 
who has said that their tendencies point toward one 
of two aims, either to bring down the god to men, 
to have " God with us " ; or, to elevate the man to 
God, to clothe him with supernatural powers. The 
one culminates in the epiphany, the other in the 
apotheosis. The writer quoted believes that this 
special culmination of one or the other of these 
tendencies is largely a matter of race, that it is an 
ethnic trait, and explains much otherwise obscure 
in the historical development of religions.* 

Without entering into this interesting but too ex- 
tensive inquiry, I will remark that these two tenden- 
cies run closely parallel to the division of rites which 
I shall adopt, a division based on a comparison of 
the large numbers which I have classified in the study 
of primitive religions. 

This division is also twofold. It embraces, first, 

all those rites which are primarily intended for the 

benefit of the community ; and, second, all those 

primarily intended for the benefit of the individual. 

* Freihold, Die Lebensgeschichte der Menschheit, p. 134. His ex- 
pressions are : i. Das Menschenwerden des Gottlichen ; and, 2. Die 
Vergolterung des Menschen. 

Primitive Religious Expression 177 

The former I shall call communal^ the XdXt^x, personal 
rites. ' 

It is the more necessary that I shall insist on this 
distinction because it has been overlooked and even 
denied by some eminent scholars. Dr. Robertson 
Smith, for example, with whom I have been before 
compelled to disagree, refused to recognise personal 
worship in primitive conditions. He wrote thus : 
" It was the community and not the individual who 
was sure of the help of its deity." The individual, 
he adds, was obliged to have recourse to merely 
magical measures for his own protection.* 

This statement is contradicted by nearly every 
primitive religion known to me ; and it can be ex- 
plained only by the concentration of the writer's 
mind on a faith so peculiar as that of the ancient 
Hebrews, f 

I. The Communal Rites, those for the benefit of 
the community, be it large or small, may be classed 
under four forms : i, the assemblage ; 2, the festal 
function ; 3, the sacrifice ; and 4, the communion 
with the Divine. 

* Religion of the Semites, p. 263. This statement will also be con- 
sidered in the sixth lecture of this series. 

f Indeed, among the Patagonian Indians, according to a competent 
observer, there are no fixed religious ceremonies whatever, except 
those of a personal character, referring to births, marriages, deaths, 
etc. — George C. Musters, Among the Patagonians, chap. v. 

178 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

7. The Assemblage. — Of these the assemblage 
should first be considered, as it is the necessary 
condition of all communal worship. The ecclesia, 
the meeting, the gathering together, the congrega- 
tion, has a far higher importance than for the mere 
purpose of unity in an outward function. It is the 
means by which that most potent agent in religious 
life, collective suggestion, is brought to bear upon the 
mind. It has been instinctively recognised by every 
religion, and especially by mystical teachers, as an 
indispensable element in the dissemination of doc- 

Strange, indeed, is the influence on the individual 
of " the crowd," when it is animated by deep feel- 
ing, by positive belief, by intense activity ! It is 
difficult even for the calmest mind not to be thrilled 
with the contagious impulses of an assemblage tossed 
on the waves of wild religious emotion. Its vertigin- 
ous passion whirls those who yield to it out of 
themselves, beyond their senses, into some lofty, 
hyper-sensuous state, where reason totters and real- 
ity fades. We have but to watch an active " re- 
vival," or the hysterical outbursts of an old-fashioned 
" camp-meeting," to be convinced of this. 

These effects are hastened and strengthened by 
the Liturgy, the responsive songs and chants, the 
music, the dancing hand in hand, the touch of flesh, 

Primitive Religious Expression 179 

and the intoxication of breath with breath, — all that 
the theologians class as the anaphora, the going back 
and forth of mind and mind, through the varied 
forms of sensuous expression.* 

All this is perfectly familiar to primitive religions. 
Among the rude tribes of our Western plains, the 
Dakotas and Chipeways for instance, thousands will 
gather at the annual festivals to unite in common 
worship and ceremonies. The first missionaries to 
Mexico report it a common sight to see six or seven 
thousand natives moving as one man in the swaying 
figures of the sacred dances ; and it were easy to 
multiply examples. Everywhere was the religious 
value of worship in common recognised. 

2. The Festal Function. — I have already referred to 
the fact that although the fear of demons and ghosts 
prevailed generally in early faiths, their prevailing 
character was by no means always gloomy. 

In early conditions the public religious ceremonies 
have an atmosphere of joyousness about them. 
They are thanksgivings and merrymakings, such as 
still exist among us in pale survivals in our harvest 
homes, Christmas festivities, and Easter-tide amuse- 
ments. In ancient Greek and Roman rites this is 

* The anaphora, remarks the Rev. John M. Neale, in his History 
of the Holy Eastern Church, vol. ii., chap, i., has always been "by 
far the most important part " of the Christian liturgies. It recurs in 
nearly all primitive worship. 

i8o Religions of Primitive Peoples 

still more visible. " Worship the gods with a joyous 
heart," prescribes Cicero; and true to the precept, 
the Romans included among their acts of worship 
such cheering adjuncts as theatrical performances, 
horse races, games, and dancing girls. No sign of 
mourning was permitted, no word of lamentation 
was allowed, and a serene mood, a joyous counten- 
ance and bright garments were enjoined, that the 
gaiety of the occasion might not suffer diminution.* 

There was nothing in this peculiar to the Romans. 
The same is well known to be true of the Greeks ; 
Jacob Grimm is our authority that the religious rites 
of the ancient Germans were as a rule cheerful, and 
those which were most cheerful were " the earliest 
and the commonest " ; while Robertson Smith testi- 
fies to the effect that the early Semitic ceremonies 
were likewise gay and festal, passing at times into a 
truly orgiastic character.f 

Probably most of us will feel some surprise when 
this trait of early and heathen religions is pressed 
upon our attention. We have been accustomed to 
hear of their dark and cruel mysteries, their immola- 
tions and holocausts, their cries of anguish and 
blood-stained altars, until we have imagined that light- 

* Granger, Worship of the Romans^ pp. 272, 303, etc. 
\ Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. i., p. 42 ; Robertson Smith, 
Religion of the Semites, p. 260 ; Payne Knight, Ancient Art, p. 50. 

Primitive Religious Expression i8i 

hearted gaiety was even farther from their teachings 
than it is from our own faith, whose cardinal princi- 
ple is the holiness of suffering and self-abnegation. 

Nothing could be wider from the truth. Probably 
the first of all public rites of worship was one of joy- 
ousness, to wit, the invitation to the god to be 
present and partake of the repast. To spread a 
meal and ask the deity to share it, that which is 
called commensality, belongs to the most archaic of 
ceremonies. Captain Clark tells us of the Western 
Indians that " feasts form an essential part of every 
ceremony." There is a certain solemnity observed 
about them, even when not strictly religious in char- 
acter. The first mouthful is offered to the gods, and 
" something in the manner of a grace " is usual when 
the person begins and finishes his meal.* 

It was but a step from this to purely religious 
banquets, festal commemorations for thanksgiving, 
in acknowledgment of benefits received. They 
were derived from the older practice of asking the 
god to share the common meal, not, as some have 
argued, from the later custom of ofTering food before 
the idols. Such solemn banquets occur where idols 
are unknown, or form a minor element in religious 
expression. Sacrificial banquets assume a different 
phase, to which I shall presently refer. 

* Indian Sign Language, pp. 167-70. 

1 82 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Next in antiquity to the commensality of God 
with man, was the sacred procession, that which is 
known as the "ceremonial circuit." 

Jacob Grimm informs us that the ancient Germans 
were accustomed at certain seasons to carry the im- 
ages of the gods, Holda, Bertha, and others, or the 
sacred symbols, the plough, the ship, etc., around 
the borders or marches of the tribal territory, over 
which they were held to exercise especial protection. 
Thus they bestowed the active beneficence of their 
personal presence on these confines. This divine 
progress was accompanied with shouts and songs 
and joyous acclamations.* 

To this day in central France, when the seed is 
sown in the spring and the husbandman has trusted 
his labour and his grain to the uncertain season, the 
image of Our Lady of Mercy is solemnly carried 
through the prepared fields, with song and prayer, 
that her blessing may rest upon them, and the grain 
return a hundred-fold. 

Far away from France and Germany, up in the 
chilly valleys of the Peruvian Andes, when the nat- 
ives used to fear, for their crops, killing frost or 
withering drought, the sacred huaca, the divine 
guardian of the village, was brought forth and car- 
ried in solemn procession around the fields, and its 

* Teutonic Mythology, vol. i., p. 42. 

Primitive Religious Expression 183 

intercession beseeched in moving cries and with 
abundant gifts,* 

Numberless other examples of this universal rite 
might be mentioned, a rite the shadow of which still 
falls among us in the processional and recessional of 
high Protestant churches. Among primitive peoples 
and in the folk-lore of modern nations, it develops 
into the forms which are known as " the sinistral 
and dextral circuits," depending on whether the pro- 
cession is from right to left or the reverse, connected 
doubtless with the motion of the celestial bodies, 
and with the reverse of that motion, each appro- 
priate to certain forms of worship. Throughout the 
American tribes this is always a point of the greatest 
importance, and constantly appears, not merely in 
their religious exercises, but in their social customs, 
their arts, and their habits of life, f 

I mentioned that the old Romans used to consider 
theatrical entertainments a proper part of a religious 
ceremony. They were not alone in that. In fact, the 
opinion was so universal that students of literary ori- 
gins are agreed that the beginning of the drama, both 
comedy and tragedy, was in sacred scenic representa- 
tions of the supposed doings of the gods. We may 
recognise the earliest form of the drama in the masked 

* Von Tschudi, Beitrdge zur Kentniss des Alten Peru, p. 156. 
f See Myths of the New World, pp. 112, sq. 

184 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

actors of the American Indian medicine dances. 
They usually take the part of some lower animal, 
comic or serious, the face concealed either with a 
part of its hide, or with a wooden mask, on which is 
painted some semblance or symbol of the animal. 
The language of the actor is appropriate to his role, 
and often involves curious modifications of the cus- 
tomary tongue, to suit the creature he represents.* 

Long before the discovery of America by Colum- 
bus the native tribes of Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru 
had developed from this source a dramatic literature, 
which, like that of the early Greek classic period, 
had thrown off its first, purely religious garb, and 
had developed into an independent art, devoted 
equally to Melpomene and Thalia, the tragic and the 
comic muses. 

These latter, of which a few specimens survive, were 
exotic plants compared to the indigenous growth of 
the American sacred dramas. So essential, indeed 
had these become to the native notions of worship 
of any sort, that the Christian missionaries were fain 
to compromise the situation, and permit them to re- 
main, merely changing the names of the heathen 
gods to those of Christian saints, and modifying 
where necessary the wording of the older text and 
its heathen scenario. 

* See Richard Andree's remarks on " die Masken im Kultus," in 
his Ethnographische Parallelen, Neuc Folge, p. 109, sq. 

Primitive Religious Expression 185 

The extreme of these festal rejoicings is seen in 
the orgiastic ceremonies so widely prevalent in early 
cults, the Bacchanalia, the Saturnalia, the " Witches' 
Sabbath " of the Middle Ages, and the like. They 
are nowise peculiar to primitive religions, although 
in them they hold a more conspicuous place. With- 
in a year, the " angel-dancers " of Hoboken, New 
Jersey, have reproduced them in their true original 
colours, and they are always ready to crop out under 
the influence of the proper stimuli to the religious 

In their earliest forms, they are far from deserving 
the odium which attached to them later. The 
Bacchantes of Greece were, at first, not a rout of 
dissolute women, but an inspired train of devout 
virgins and chaste matrons. No man was permitted 
in the ranks under pain of death. This was true 
also in Rome, in the Orient, and in many tribes of 
America. It was a later and an evil innovation 
which sanctioned the unrestrained mingling of the 
sexes in these wild processions of intoxicated fanatics. 
Their intoxication was, however, with the divine 
spirit, not the purple grape-juice. They were, as the 
Greeks said, " theoleptic," possessed or infuriated 
with the maddening joy of the gods, drunk with the 
celestial ambrosia. 

To our cold observation, they were in hysterical 

1 86 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

mania, with minds disordered by religious excite- 
ment, worked up to a high contagious pitch through 
collective suggestion, following crazily the disordered 
fancies of their sub-conscious selves, mistaking them 
for the inspiration of divine emanations. 

J. The Sacrifice. — In the custom of offering to the 
divine visitant a portion of the food and drink, we 
discover the origin of sacrifice. The word has 
acquired sad associations, seen in our common ex- 
pression " to make a sacrifice," which signifies some 
painful self-surrender. 

This was foreign to its original meaning. The 
sacrifice at first was a free-will offering, a pleasing 
and grateful recognition of the kindness of the deity. 
The first-fruits, the young kid, the earliest ear of 
corn to mature, were offered to the beneficent being 
who had sent them for the good of man. It was the 
willing acknowledgment we pay to a kind friend. 
The earliest species of sacrifice is in the nature of a 
thank-offering. They were of the class which has 
been termed " honorific," and were little more than 
" meals offered to the deity." * 

I may illustrate it from a custom of the Papuans 
of New Guinea. They believe, being ancestral 
worshippers, that the good things of life arc mainly 
owing to the continuing solicitude of their departed 

* Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, vol. i., p. 48, sq. 

Primitive Religious Expression 187 

progenitors. Therefore, to testify their gratitude, 
once in several years they dig up the skulls of those 
deceased relations, paint them with chalk, decorate 
them with feathers and flowers, and placing them on 
a scaffold, offer to them food and trinkets.* 

There is nothing of fear in this rite, and nothing 
fearful, for it is made the occasion of a merry 

Soon, however, in the development of the cult it 
was perceived that loss and affliction abounded and 
increased ; the gods grew careless of their votaries, 
or angry with them. They must be pacified and 
propitiated. Hence arose the second form of sac- 
rifices, those which are called " conciliatory " or 
" piacular." f They were atoning in significance, 
mystic in their symbolism, expiatory in their aims. 
The gods were displeased at what man had done 
or had left undone, and they must be reconciled by 
humility and self-abnegation. 

In this the primitive worshipper acted towards 
his deity just as he would toward an earthly superior 
whose displeasure he had incurred. There was no 
new sentiment or line of action introduced. The rite 
of sacrifice in any of its phases offers nothing apart 
from the general motives of mankind. 

* A. B. Meyer, in Globus, Bd. Ixvii., p. 334. 

f The terms "honorific" and " piacular " were, I believe, first 
suggested by Dr. \V. Robertson Smith. They are very appropriate. 

1 88 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

The most common reason for early sacrifice was 
to expiate breaches of the ceremonial law. Whether 
this occurred intentionally or not of purpose, it was 
deemed requisite to make amends by some painful 
act, to pacify the demonic power behind the law. 

Naturally, the greater the self-denial displayed in 
the ofTering, the higher its merit and the more effica- 
cious its character. The ancient Germans laid it 
down that in time of famine beasts should first be 
slain and offered to the gods. Did these bring no 
relief, then men must be slaughtered ; and if still 
there was no aid from on high, then the chieftain of 
the tribe himself must mount the altar ■'^; for the 
nobler and dearer the victim, the more pleased were 
the gods ! 

The same doctrine prevailed practically through 
most primitive religions, and was carried to a like 
extent. Painful mutilations of oneself, the lopping 
of a finger, scarification, driving thorns through the 
tongue or the flesh elsewhere, burning with hot 
coals, scourging, and supporting crushing weights: 
these are but a few of the many terrible sufferings 
which the individual inflicted on himself. 

Thus steeled to pain in his own person, he knew 
no limit to its infliction on others. The tortures of 
captives or of slaves dedicated to the gods, common 

* Holtzmann, Deutsche Mylhologie, p. 232. 

Primitive Religious Expression 189 

in American religions, formed part of the religious 
value of the ceremony. Not merely captives and 
slaves, but those of his own household and blood, 
his nearest and his dearest, must the true worshipper 
be prepared to surrender, were it his first-born son 
or the wife of his bosom. It was not heartlessness 
or cruelty which prompted him, but obedience to 
that law of the supernatural, which ever claims for 
itself supremacy over all laws and all passions of the 
natural man. 

Traces of human sacrifice are discovered in the 
early history of even the noblest religions, and the 
rite extended so widely that scarce a cult can be 
named in which it did not exist. 

What rendered them the more general was the 
underlying belief that, let the sacrifice be sufficiently 
exalted, the gods could not resist it. They were con- 
strained by its magical power, and whatever was 
desired could be extorted from them, with or 
without their volition. So to this day teach the 
Hindu priests, and so believed the ancient Romans 
and various primitive nations. 

4.. The Communion with God. — The idea of atone- 
ment in the piacular sacrifice is in reality that of 
being ^«^ witJi the god, that of entering into union or 
communion with him. This, indeed, lies largely at 
the base of all the forms of ritualistic worship. Its 


190 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

purpose, more or less clearly avowed, is to bring into 
spiritual unison the worshipper and the worshipped. 

A few examples from American rites will illustrate 

The natives of Nicaragua at the time of maize 
gathering were accustomed to sacrifice a man to 
the gods of the harvest. Around the altar were 
strewn grains of corn. Over these the worshippers 
stood and with flint knives let blood from the most 
sensitive parts of their bodies, the drops falling on 
the grains. These were then eaten as holy food, 
part of the sacrifice.* 

Something very similar obtained in Peru. At the 
time of the vernal equinox, all strangers were bidden 
to leave the sacred city of Cuzco, where the Inca re- 
sided. A human victim was immolated, and the spot- 
less " Virgins of the Sun " were deputed to mingle his 
blood with meal and bake it into small cakes. These 
were distributed among the people and eaten, and one 
was sent to every holy shrine and temple in the king- 
dom, t Precisely such a rite prevailed among the an- 
cient Germans. At the harvest supper the spirit of 
the corn, represented latterly under the form of an 
animal but in earlier days as a child, was slain and 
eaten by those who had aided in the harvest. It 

*Oviedo, Historia de las Indias, lib. x., cap. xi. 
f Balboa, Histoire du Perou, pp. 125-7. 

Primitive Religious Expression 191 

was the literal and corporeal union of man and the 
the god. * 

Still clearer was the similar ceremony of the Aztecs. 
A youth was chosen and named for the god. For 
months his every wish was gratified. Then he was slain 
on the altar and his fresh blood was mixed with dough 
which was divided among the worshippers and eaten. 
Thus they became partakers of the Divine Nature, f 

The fearful similarity of this ceremony both in its 
form and in its intention to that of the Christian 
Eucharist could not escape the notice of the Spanish 
missionaries. They attributed it to the malicious 
suggestions of the Devil, thus parodying in cruel 
and debased traits the sacred mysteries of the Church. 
But the psychologist sees in them all the same in- 
herent tendency, the same yearning of the feeble 
human soul to reach out towards and make itself a 
part of the Divine Mind. 

II. The Personal Rites, those for the benefit 
of the individual, will next occupy us. 

I have already observed that while the tribe or 
gens in primitive conditions worships in common one 
or several divinities, most of the religious acts of the 
individual are directed toward a deity whom he may 
claim as his own special guardian and friend. This 

* Frazer, The Golden Bough, vol. ii., p. 31. 
f Sahagun, Historia de la Nueva Espaha, lib. i. 

192 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

is his tutelary god, his personal Saijxoov, his " mys- 
tagogue," who will not merely look after the welfare 
of his human ward, but introduce him into the higher 
and occult knowledge and power. 

This personal deity reveals himself at birth, or may 
await some later year or incident of life to manifest 
his name and nature. He may be the spirit of some 
ancestor or great chieftain or mighty shaman ; or he 
may belong to those deities who never assume mortal 
habiliments. The teachers of early faiths differed on 
these points ; but nearly all agreed that to each per- 
son some such guardian angel or genius was assigned. 
From these spirits the personal names were fre- 
quently received, and, lest these should be misused, 
they were usually kept secret. 

These beliefs are too wide-spread to require sup- 
port from examples. Probably every American 
tribe shared them. They are familiar in classic 
Greece and Rome. The Finns and the ancient Celtic 
peoples possessed them in marked forms; and they 
survive in the tutelary Saints of the Roman Church. 

Principally to these the adults paid their devotions 
and offered their vows for what concerned their per- 
sonal welfare ; and many of the rites which I am 
about to describe, derive their meaning from their 
connection with this belief. I shall classify them 
as relating : i, to birth ; 2, to naming ; 3, to puberty ; 

Primitive Religious Expression 193 

4, to marriage; and 5, to death and the disposal of 
the corpse. 

/. Rites Relating to Birth. — Although the immedi- 
ate act of childbirth may not cause the savage 
mother severe suffering, the appearance of a new 
human being in the world is not considered of light 
importance. In her description of the Pueblo 
Indians of New Mexico, Mrs. Stevenson remarks 
that some " of their most sacred and exclusive 
rites are connected with childbirth," and her full 
and accurate account of them reveals in a strong 
light how solemn the event was considered.* 

In many tribes the child was considered bound to 
its father by some mysterious tie closer than con- 
nected it with its mother. Among the Northern 
Indians, the father will not bridle a horse or perform 
sundry other acts for a fixed period after the birth 
of his child, for if he did it would die ! f In 
the rites of Mexico and South America, this refrain- 
ing from certain labours passed into the strange 
custom of the coiivade. This was, that upon the 
birth of the child, the father took to his bed and re- 
mained there for a number of days. Did he neglect 
this, it was believed that the child would die or have 
bad luck. For the same reason he had to be ex- 

* Mrs. M. C. Stevenson, in An. Rep. Bureau of Ethnology, vol. 
xi., p. 132. 

fDorsey, Siouan Cults, p. 511. 

194 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

tremely careful of his own health and guarded in his 
actions during his wife's pregnancy, or otherwise the 
unborn babe would suffer.* 

Not less strange are the wide-spread rites and 
opinions connected with the umbilical cord. As it 
united the unborn infant to the life of the mother, it 
was generally held to retain that power in a mysti- 
cal sense. Among the American Indians, it was a 
frequent custom to carry it to a distance and bury it, 
and it became the duty of the individual, in his later 
life, to visit alone from time to time that spot, and 
perform certain ceremonies. f 

Thus the religious life of a person began with his 
birth. Not infrequently at that time his tutelary 
divinity was ascertained by the priests and assigned 
him, as among the Mayas, and the Africans of the 
Congo River. With the latter, it was also custom- 
ary to lay upon the new-born babe a series of 
"vows," or resolutions touching his conduct in life. 
These were impressed on the mother, who adopted 
it as a sacred duty to bring up her child in obedience 
to them. A similar habit prevailed in the Anda- 
man Islands and elsewhere.:}; 

* A. d'Orbigny, L^ Homme Amdricain, torn, i., p. 237. 

f Examples in my Native Calendar of Central America, p. 18. 
It was a favourite amulet among the Crees (Mackenzie, Hist, of the 
Fur Trade, p. 86). 

X Achelis, Moderne Volkerkunde, p. 370 ; Man, in Jour. Anthrop. 
Inst,, vol. xii., p. 172. 

Primitive Religious Expression 195 

With these vows was often associated the rite of 
baptism, by sprinkling or by immersion in water. 
Even among the rude Yahgans of Tierra del Fuego 
we find that the child, when born, was promptly 
dipped in water, not for sanitary but for religious 

The ancient inhabitants of Teneriffe considered it 
necessary to have a child formally asperged by a 
priestess before acknowledging it as a member of the 
family,* and some such rite was prevalent in many 
tribes. It was in one sense an initiation, as it was 
with the neophytes of the mysteries of Mithras, who, 
according to TertuUian, were baptised upon entering 
the novitiate. In another, it would seem to have 
been a purification from inherited sin, in which sense 
it was practised by the Nahuas of Mexico and the 
Quichuas of Peru, With the Mayas of Yucatan, it 
was in common usage and was known by the 
significant name, "the second birth." f 

2. Relating to the Name. — The Name, as we have 
already seen, was looked upon as a part of the person, 
one of his forms or modes of life. Very generally, 

* Charlevoix, Hist, de la Nouvelle France, ch. vi. Sprinkling the 
new-born child as a religious ceremony prevailed in New Zealand and 
throughout Polynesia. (Fornander, The Polynesian Race, vol. i., 
p. 236.) 

fCogolludo, Historia de Yucatan, lib. iv., cap. vi. The same 
belief prevailed in some African tribes ; see Achelis, Moderne 
Vijlkerkunde, p. 393. 

196 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

its selection was a matter of religious moment, and 
accompanied with solemn ceremonies. A person 
might have many names, but there was one which 
was taken from or referred to his or her tutelary 
spirit, and this was holy and not to be lightly used. 

Among the Nahuas this was generally announced 
by the priest on the seventh day after birth, but as 
it would be profane to speak it constantly, another 
was employed for ordinary conversation. The 
Algonquin children, says one who lived among them 
long, are taught by their mothers not to divulge 
their real names, lest by so doing they should offend 
the personal god who has taken them under his pro- 

When a babe, among the Seminoles of Florida, 
was about a fortnight old, the mother took it in her 
arms and walked three times around the public square 
of the village, calling aloud the name given it ; but 
this name was not that by which it was later known ; 
and " they were always averse to telling it." f With 
some tribes, as the Choctaws, the idea of profanity 
existed only if the person himself spoke his name ; 
so that, " it is impossible to get it from him unless 
he has an acquaintance present, whom he will request 
to tell it for him." :j: Analogous customs abound in 

* H. R. Schoolcraft, Oneota, pp., 331, 456. 

f Notices of East Florida by a Recent Traveller, p. 79. 

J Giegg, Commerce oj^ the Frairies,\o\., ii., p. 271. 

Primitive Religious Expression 197 

early religions and many of them survive in modern 

In some instances the American Indian would ex- 
change his name for that of a friend, or extend to him 
his name ; a rare and high sign of amity, as it signi- 
fied that the receiver was thus placed under the 
guardianship of the same tutelar deity. This cus- 
tom extended widely throughout the island world of 
the Pacific and among many primitive peoples. It 
has often been noted, but its peculiarly religious 
meaning has generally been misunderstood. 

That certain names are auspicious and others in- 
auspicious is a belief that belongs everywhere to man- 
kind in the primitive stage of thought. But it is 
curious to note that while generally the auspicious 
names are those of sweet sound and favourable sense, 
in Tonkin, Siam, and some other regions ugly and 
unpleasant names are preferred, because these will 
frighten away the evil spirits.f 

J. Rites Relating to Puberty. — On the momentous 
crisis in the personal life when the boy enters into 
manhood and the girl becomes a woman, in nearly 
all primitive tribes a solemn rite is prescribed, the 
object of which is to prepare the child for the duties 
of the wider life, which it is about to begin. 

* Examples in E. S. Hartland's Science of Fairy Tales, p. 309. 
f R. Aiidree, Ethnopaphische Parallelen, p. 177. 

I98 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

No better example for such a ceremony could be 
selected than that which prevails among the southern 
tribes of Australia. It is their principal public act of 
worship. The name by which it is known is the 
Bora,^ a word derived from the belt or girdle which 
the men wear, and which is at that time conferred 
on the youth. Its celebration involves extensive 
preparations and occupies a number of days. The 
youths are submitted to severe tests and sometimes 
to dreadful mutilations. They are taught the holy 
names and sacred traditions ; and when they have 
satisfied their elders of their endurance and fidelity, 
they are admitted to the manhood of the tribe. 

The Bora is a distinctly religious ceremony. It is 
said to have been instituted by their chief god 
Turamulun himself, and remains under his spiritual 
charge. Its rites " involve the idea of a dedication 
to supernatural powers," and the figure of the god, 
moulded in high relief on the earth in the costume 
and attitude of the sacred dance, is intended to 
represent his personal presence. The aim is the 
education of the individual to fill his place properly 
in the tribal life ; and one of the most intelligent of 
English observers expresses his conviction that 

* The Bora has been often described, by no one better than Mr. 
A. W. Howitt in Jour. Anthrap. Inst., vol. vii., p. 242, sq., and vol. 
xiv. , p. 306, sq. 

Primitive Religious Expression 199 

" every rule of conduct under which the novice is 
placed is directly intended to some end beneficent 
to the community or believed to be." 

Throughout most of America, a similar initiation 
was required of the youth before he was entitled to 
the privileges of manhood. It was frequently ac- 
companied by the most painful tests of his courage 
and endurance. His naked back was lacerated with 
rods, his strength was tried by prolonged hunger, 
thongs were inserted into his flesh and torn out by 
the bystanders. 

More frequently the boy was sent alone into the 
woods, and there, exposed to inclement weather, 
cold, hunger and thirst, self-torture and meditation, 
awaited the divine revelation which entitled him to 
call himself a man ! 

" Could it be possible," exclaims an intelligent 
traveller, " to hear anything stranger, more wonder- 
ful, than these stories of unheard-of castigations and 
torments to which boys of thirteen or fourteen sub- 
ject themselves, merely for the sake of an idea, a 
dream, the fulfilment of a religious duty ? More 
surprising is it that not merely some extraordinary 
youth is capable of this, but that every young Indian, 
without exception, displays such heroism." * 

The same rule applied to the girl. As it became 

* J. G. Kohl, A^tU/ii Garni, p. 228. 

200 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

evident that the period had arrived in her life-history 
when she was capable of the sacred duties of mother- 
hood, she either retired into the forest, there to 
commune alone with her guardian spirit, or, as among 
the Sioux Indians, the fact was made known to the 
village, and a solemn feast announced by her parents. 
At this, some venerable priest addressed the guests, 
" calling attention to the sacred and mysterious 
manner in which nature had announced the fact 
that she was ready to embrace the duties of matri- 
mony ! " * 

In these ceremonies, which may be said to belong 
to primitive religions in all times, we recognise again 
the one idea which more than any other permeated 
all their myths and rites, — the idea of Life. It was 
because the boy and girl, passing to riper years, in- 
dicated the acquisition of the power to perpetuate 
and transmit Life, that at this age it was held neces- 
sary for them to mark the epoch by rites of the most 
sacred import. 

4.. Rites Relating to Marriage. — If the notion of 
life was thus the inspiration of the rites of puberty, 
still more potently did it control those relating to 

* Captain Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 254. D'Orbigny de- 
scribes the bloody ordeals through which girls in South American 
tribes were obliged to pass. L'Ho?n>ne Ame'ricain, torn, i., pp. 193, 

Primitive Religious Expression 201 

Much has been written by special students con- 
cerning the forms of primitive marriage, and much 
of what has been written is theory only, not sup- 
ported by actual and intimate knowledge of facts. 

The assertion is common in works of the kind 
that the earliest form of marriage was no marriage 
at all, — mere promiscuity, — and that, later, a modi- 
fied form of the same, known as " communal " mar- 
riage, prevailed. Not a single example of either of 
these has been known in history or in ethnology, 
and it is a gratuitous hypothesis only that either ever 
prevailed in a permanent community. 

What we first discern is the family, generally 
centred around the mother, and tracing descent 
through the maternal ancestors only. This is the 
"matriarchal" as distinguished from the "patriarchal" 
system, the latter being that in which the father is 
the centre and head of the family, and the genealogy 
is traced in his line. Both these forms, however, 
have existed, so far as we know, in wholly primitive 
conditions. The selection of one or the other was a 
matter of local accident or incident. 

The primitive family, held together by one or other 
of these ties of blood-relationship, was a close corpor- 
ation. It might adopt outsiders, but after admission 
they were considered of the same blood and lineage. 
Its property was in common, its laws were laid on all, 

202 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

its very gods were its own. Especially, the rules 
relating to marriage were prescribed with rigid form- 

The general practice was that the youth must seek 
his bride from another recognised family (gens or 
totem) of the tribe. To choose her from his own 
immediate family was a crime of such deep dye that 
even an Australian savage " could not consider such 
a thing possible " ; although, in later conditions, this 
artificial barrier was often weakened.* 

In matriarchal systems, the husband usually went 
to live with the gens of the wife, but did not become 
a member of it. He was looked upon as a stranger 
and an interloper. Among some Australian and 
American tribes, he never spoke directly to his wife's 
m.other, or even looked at her. His children did not 
acknowledge him as a blood-relation, and when he 
grew old and useless, he had to look to his own 
family, not to his own offspring, for his m.aintenance. 

The origin of these strange usages was strictly 
religious. They have been analysed as they existed 
in many nations by one of the ablest of German eth- 
nologists, and their source has been shown to be that 
the gods of the one gens never willingly accept the 
introduction of a stranger into the household except 

* Curr, The Australian Race, vol. i., pp. 45-50 ; Palmer, in your. 
Anthrop. Inst., vol. xiii., p. 301. 

Primitive Religious Expression 203 

by the regular formulas of adoption, which would 
prevent marriage ; hence, the husband is, and ever 
remains, a foreigner and an interloper in the matri- 
archal household. His wife's god is not his god, nor 
are her people his people.* 

The actual ceremony of marriage itself often in- 
dicates this. Much has been said by writers on 
ethnology of " marriage by capture," and it is often 
asserted to be that most usual among primitive peo- 
ples, and to continue in survivals in higher conditions 
of culture. 

There is, indeed, very frequently a ceremony which 
presents the appearance of violently seizing and carry- 
ing away by main force the bride-elect. But it is not 
to be understood as the reminiscence of a time when 
the man went forth and snatched a girl from some 
neighbouring tribe to become his slave and his wife. 
I doubt if in the true totemic marriage, considered 
as distinct from concubinage, any such method was 
practised. It is not so to-day, even among the Aus- 
tralian Blacks. If they steal a woman, they first in- 
quire as to her kinship, and if she belongs to a class 
into which her captor cannot marry, according to the 
laws of his clan, he sets her free, f 

The so-called " marriage by capture " was either a 

* See Post, in Globus, B. Ixvii, s. 274. 
f Palmer, ubi supra, p. 301. 

204 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

recognised tribute to maidenly coyness, by which her 
real or feigned resistance was to be overcome in a 
manner creditable to herself, — a sentiment constantly 
witnessed in the lower animals as well as in modern 
life ; or it was a method of conciliating her house- 
hold gods, the deities of the gens, by giving the ap- 
pearance of constraint and succumbing to force on 
the part of the girl. Some of the northern tribes of 
America carried these notions to the extent of a pre- 
tended concealment of the marriage long after it had 
been performed. The husband was obliged to enter 
the home of his wife by night and secretly. To ap- 
proach it in daytime or to be seen in her company 
would have been a grave impropriety. * 

The second primitive form of marriage is by pur- 
chase. This also is far less usual than many writers 
have assumed. There is indeed, very commonly, as 
in civilised society, an exchange of goods along wath 
or previous to the marital ceremony. But with us it 
is not regarded as a purchase and sale when an 
American girl's father gives his daughter and a mil- 
lion to a foreign nobleman in exchange for the title 
conferred on the bride. It may in reality be a mere 
commercial transaction, but in theory it is not so. 

Just as little is the " marriage by purchase " among 
most of the aboriginal tribes, where we find it in 

* Lafitau, Moeurs des Sauva^cs Amdricains, lib. ii, ch. vi. 

Primitive Religious Expression 205 

vogue. The exchange of goods is often a form of 
connpensation to the household gods for the privilege 
of remaining a member of the clan, or for the per- 
mission to enter its ranks as an authorised resident. 

Of course, women were bought and sold as any 
other commodity ; they were part of the booty of 
victors, and were dispensed as gifts, or kept for 
enjoyment. But when we confine ourselves to the 
examination of the strictly totemic marriage we find 
even among the wildest tribes that it was generally 
founded in mutual liking, that it was contracted un- 
der the sanction of the recognised family laws, and 
that its ritual was that of a religious ceremony.* 
The poor Bushmen, even, believe that the laws re- 
lating to marriage are of divine origin, enacted by 
the sacred ant-eater, and that their infraction \vill be 
severely punished, f 

The gifts which accompanied the rite were in the 
nature of offerings. Ceremonies of lustration and 
purification, in which the sacred elements, fire and 
water, took a prominent part, were general, and the 

* Musters asserts this positively of the Tehuelche and other tribes 
(Among the Patagonians, chap, v.) ; Captain Clark, whose long ex- 
perience among our Western tribes constituted him an authority of the 
first rank, takes pains to correct the notion that among the natives 
wives are bought, although they are by white men {hidian Sign 
Language, pp. 245-6). It would be easy to multiply references to 
the same effect. 

f Bleek, Bushman Folk-lore, p. 13. 

2o6 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

relationship established was in its essence one of 
religious significance, and not one of mere secular 

5. Relating to Death. — An attractive writer, Pro- 
fessor Frank Granger, remarks in a recent volume: 
" The first attitude of primitive man to his dead seems 
to have been one of almost unmixed terror." * 
Would that we could give primitive man so much 
credit ! But we cannot. The evidence is mountain- 
high that in the earliest and rudest period of human 
history the corpse inspired so little terror that it was 
nearly always eaten by the surviving friends ! f 

We can look back clearly through the corridors of 
time to that stage of development when death and 
the dead inspired no more terror or aversion in man 
than they do to-day among the carnivorous brutes. 

Throughout the whole of the palaeolithic period of 
culture we discover extremely faint traces of any 
mode of sepulture, any respect for the dead. 

The oldest cemeteries or funeral monuments of 
any sort date from the neolithic period. Then the 
full meaning of Death seems to have broken sud- 
denly on man, and his whole life became little more 
than a meditatio mortis, a preparation for the world 

* Worship of the Ro/nans, p. 67. 

f This has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt by Dr. S. K. 
Steinmetz in a remarkable study of " Endo-cannibalismus," in the 
Archiv fur Anthropolgie, 1896. 

Primitive Religious Expression 207 

beyond the tomb. What Professor Granger says of 
the ancient Romans applies to very many primitive 
tribes : " In the belief of the Romans, the right to 
live was not estimated more highly than the right 
to receive proper burial." * 

The funeral or mortuary ceremonies, which are 
often so elaborate, and so punctiliously performed in 
savage tribes, have a twofold purpose. They are 
equally for the benefit of the individual and for that 
of the community. If they are neglected or inade- 
quately conducted, the restless spirit of the departed 
cannot reach the realm of joyous peace, and there- 
fore he returns to lurk about his former home and to 
plague the survivors for their carelessness. 

It was therefore to lay the ghost, to avoid the 
anger of the disembodied spirit, that the living in- 
stituted and performed the burial ceremonies ; while 
it became to the interest of the individual to provide 
for it that those rites should be carried out which 
would conduct his own soul to the abode of the 

These were as various as were the myths of the 
after-world and the fancies as to the number and 
destiny of the personal souls. 

* Granger, ubi sttpra, p. 37. The word " burial " in ethnology is 
used to denote all modes of disposal of the corpse. This is etymo- 
logically correct. See Yarrow, Mortuary Customs of the North 
American Indians, p. 5. 

2o8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Most common of them all was some sort of funeral 
feast. The disagreeable suggestion is close, that 
this was a survival of the habit of eating the corpse 
itself. Up to a very recent date that habit prevailed 
among the Bolivian Indians ; and so desirable an 
end was it esteemed that the traveller D'Orbigny 
tells of an old man he met there whose only regret 
at embracing Christianity was that his body would 
be eaten by worms instead of by his relations ! 

The later theory, however, was that then the soul 
itself was supplied with food. It partook spiritually 
of the viands and thus, well fortified for its long 
journey, departed in good humour with those it 
left behind. The same notion led to the world-wide 
custom of providing it with many articles by placing 
them in the tomb or burning them on the funeral 
pyre. This extended not only to weapons, utensils, 
ornaments, and clothing, but not infrequently to 
companions. On the coast of Peru the wives of a 
man were burned alive with his dead body, and 
among the Natchez they were knocked on the head 
and interred under the same mounds.* I have seen 

*Navarrete, Viages, torn, iii., p. 401 ; Dumont, Mems. Hist, sur 
la Louisiane, torn, i., p. 178 ; Gumilla, Hist, del Orinoco, p. 201. 
Coreal says, the widows esteemed it a privilege to be buried with the 
corpse and disputed among themselves for the honour, Voiages, torn, 
ii., pp. 93, 94. The Taenzas had the same customs as the Natchez, 
Tonty, Mdmoire, in French, Hist. Colls, of Louisiana, p. 61. 

Primitive Religious Expression 209 

the mummy of a woman from the Cliff Dwellers of 
Arizona, holding in her arms the body of her babe 
which had been strangled with a cord, still tightly 
stretched around its little neck. Plainly the sympa- 
thetic survivors had reflected how lonely the poor 
mother would be in the next world without her babe, 
and had determined that its soul should accompany 
hers. Elsewhere, slaves or companions in arms were 
slain or slew themselves that they might accompany 
some famous chieftain to his long home. 

In these funeral rites the disposal of the corpse 
depended upon ethnic traits, ancestral usage, or the 
instructions of the priests. 

Perhaps the earliest was simple exposure. The 
body was left in the forest for the beasts and birds 
to consume, as among the Caddo Indians and others ; 
or it was sunk in the waters that the fish should per- 
form the same of^ce ; the usual object being to ob- 
tain the bones with the least trouble. The oldest of 
all burials yet discovered, those in the caves in the 
south of France, were of this character, simple " se- 
position " as it is called. The body was merely laid 
in a posture of repose on the cave floor, with the 
weapons and ornaments it had used during life.* 

Next in point of time doubtless came inhumation, 

♦Arthur J. Evans, in Proc. Brit. Assoc. Adv. Science., 1896, Sect. 



2IO Religions of Primitive Peoples 

the interment of the body in the ground or covering 
it, laid on the surface, with stones and earth, — the 
burial mound. Homeric Greeks, American Indians, 
and tribes of all continents practised this method in 
different ages, and the barrows or tumuli thus erected 
remain in thousands to this day to attest the religious 
earnestness of those early peoples. The vast monu- 
ments which at times they constructed for their dead, 
the pyramids, dolmens, and teocalli, have never since 
been equalled in magnitude or cubical contents. 

Another and significant funeral rite of high an- 
tiquity is that of cremation or incineration. It was 
symbolic in character, the body being given to the 
flames in order that the spirit, by their purifying 
agency, should promptly be set free and united with 
the gods. This method also prevailed extensively 
among the American race, and was quite in conson- 
ance with their opinions of the after-life. " It is 
the one passion of his superstition," writes Mr. 
Powers of the Californian Indian, " to think of the 
soul of his departed friend as set free, and purified 
by the flames; not bound to the mouldering body, 
but borne up on the soft clouds of the smoke toward 
the beautiful sun." * 

* Stephen Powers, Indians of California, pp. i8r, 207. The Tas- 
manians and Fuegians, probably the lowest of known tribes, burned 
their dead. Hyades et Deniker, Alission Scientifique , p. 379 ; Fen- 
ton, History of Tasmania, p. 95. Some tribes gave as a reason for 

Primitive Religious Expression 21 1 

Other peoples entertained the opinion that the 
body as it is, in all its parts, must be preserved in 
order that it might be again habitable for the soul, 
when this ethereal essence should return to earth 
from its celestial wanderings. Therefore, with ut- 
most care they sought for means to preserve the 
fleshly tenement. In Virginia, in some parts of 
South America, on the Madeira Islands, the aborigi- 
nal population dried the corpse over a slow fire into 
a condition that resisted decay ; while elsewhere, the 
nitrous soil of caves offered a natural means of em- 
balming. The Alaska'n and Peruvian mummies, like 
those of ancient Egypt, were artificially prepared 
and swathed in numerous cerecloths. In all, the 
same faith in the literal resurrection of the flesh was 
the prevailing motive. 

More generally, the belief was held that the soul 
remained attached in some way to the bones. These 
were carefully cleaned and either preserved in the 
house, or stored in ossuaries. Frequently they were 
kept as amulets or mascots, in the notion that the 
friendly spirit which animated the living person 
would continue to hover around his skeleton or skull, 
and exert its amicable power. The Peruvians held 
that the bones of their deceased priests were oracu- 

burning their dead that otherwise bears and wolves would eat the 
corpse, and the soul would be obliged to take on their forms. — Pres. 
Message and Ac. Docs., 1851, pt. iii., p. 506. 

212 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

lar, speaking good counsel, and the missionaries were 
obliged to break them into small fragments to dispel 
this superstition*; though they themselves contin- 
ued to hold it heretical to doubt the efficacy of the 
bones of the saints! A tribe on the Orinoco was 
wont to beat the bones of their dead into powder 
and mix it with their cassava bread, holding that 
thus their friends and parents lived again in the 
bodies of the eaters! 

After cremation, the ashes were left upon the altar, 
and the whole covered with earth ; or they were 
preserved in urns with the fragments of the bones ; 
or, as with a tribe of the Amazon, they were cast 
upon the waters of the great river and floated down 
to the limitless ocean. 

Thus closed the last scene in the existence of the 
primitive man. From birth to death he had been 
surrounded and governed by the ceremonies of his 
religion ; and on his passage out of this life, he con- 
fidently looked to another in which he should find a 
compensation and a consolation for the woes of his 
present condition. 

Following these funerary functions came the cus- 
toms of mourning. They Avere often excessively 
protracted and severe, involving self-mutilation, as 

* Alonso de la Pena Montenegro, I liner ario para Parrocos de In- 
dios,, p. 185 (Madrid, 1771). 

Primitive Religious Expression 213 

the lopping of a finger or an ear, scarification, flagel- 
lation, fasting, and cutting the hair. These were 
shared by the friends and relatives of the deceased, 
and at the death of some famous chief " the whole 
tribe will prostrate themselves to their woe." 

The psychic explanation of these demonstrations 
is not wholly clear. By some they have been inter- 
preted as a commutation for cannibalism, and by 
others as an excuse for not accompanying the corpse 
into the other world. One writer says : " Barbarism, 
abandoned to sorrow, finds physical suffering a relief 
from mental agony." * On the other hand, a recent 
student of the subject claims that in these rites we 
perceive "the oldest evidence of active conscience in 
the human race ; the individual laid hands on him- 
self in order to restore the moral equihbrium." f 
Need we go farther than to see in them merely ex- 
aggerated forms of the same emotional outbursts 
which lead nervous temperaments everywhere to 
wring the hands and tear the hair in moments of 
violent grief? 

* Clark, Indian Sign Language, p. 263. 
f K. T. Preuss, in the Bastian Festschrift. 


The Lines of Development of Primitive 

Contents : — Pagan Religions not wholly Bad — Their Lines of De- 
velopment as Connected with : i. The Primitive Social Bond — 
The Totem, the Priesthood, and the Law ; 2. The Family and 
the Position of Woman ; 3. The Growth of Jurisprudence — The 
Ordeal, Trial by Battle, Oaths, and the Right of Sanctuary — 
Religion is Anarchic ; 4. The Development of Ethics — Dual- 
ism of Primitive Ethics — Opposition of Religion to Ethics ; 5. 
The Advance in Positive Knowledge — Religion versus Science ; 
6. The Fostering of the Arts — The Aim for Beauty and Perfect- 
ion — Colour-Symbolism, Sculpture, Metre, Music, Oratory, 
Graphic Methods — Useful Arts, Architecture ; 7. The Inde- 
pendent Life of the Individual — His Freedom and Happiness 
— Inner Stadia of Progress : i. From the Object to the Sym- 
bol ; 2. From the Ceremonial Law to the Personal Ideal ; 3. 
From the Tribal to the National Conception of Religion — Con- 
clusion . 

IT has always been, and is now, the prevailing be- 
lief in Christendom that pagan or heathen 
religions cannot exert and never have exerted any 
good influence on their votaries. 

This opinion has also been defended by some mod- 
ern and eminent authorities in the science of ethno- 
logy, as, for example, the late Professor Waitz.* 

* Anihropologie des Naturvolker, Bd. i., p. 459. 

The Lines of Development 215 

It is a favourite teaching in missionary societies and 
in works of travellers who are keen observers of the 
shortcomings of others' faiths. 

I have never been able to share such a view. The 
lowest religions seem to have in them the elements 
which exist in the ripest and the noblest ; and these 
elements work for good wherever they exist. How- 
ever rude the form of belief in agencies above those 
of the material world, in a higher law than that con- 
fessedly of solely human enactment, and in a stand- 
ard of duty prescribed by something loftier than 
immediate advantage, — such a belief must prompt 
the individual, anywhere, to a salutary self-disciphne 
which will steadily raise him above his merely animal 
instincts, and imbue him with nobler conceptions of 
the aims of life. 

When he feels himself under the protection of 
some unseen, but ever near, beneficent power, his 
emotions of gratitude and love will be stimulated ; 
and when he recognises in the ceremonial law a di- 
vine prescription for his own welfare and that of his 
tribe, he will cheerfully submit to the rigours of its 

The various lines of development which were thus 
marked out and pursued through the influence of 
early religious thought, and which reacted to de- 
velop it, deserve to be pointed out in detail, since 

2i6 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

they have so generally been overlooked or misun- 

For convenience of presentation they may be ex- 
amined under seven headings, as they were connected 
with : I, The primitive social bond ; 2. The family 
and the position of woman; 3. The growth of juris- 
prudence; 4. The development of ethics; 5. The 
advance in positive knowledge ; 6. The fostering of 
the arts ; and 7. The independent life of the indi- 

These are the main elements of ethnology ; and as 
they progressed to higher forms and finer specialisa- 
tions, partly through the influence of religion, they 
in turn reflected back to it their brighter lustre, and 
the symmetrical growth of a richer culture was thus 

I. The first to be named should be the construc- 
tion of the primitive society. This was essentially 
religious. I have already emphasised how completely 
the savage is bound up in his faith, how it enters into 
nigh every act and thought of his daily life. This 
may be illustrated by its part in four very early and 
widely existing forms of social ties — the totem, the 
sacred society, the priesthood, and the ceremonial 

The totemic bond I have previously explained. 
It existed in many American and Australian tribes 

The Lines of Development 217 

and relics of it can be discerned in the early peoples 
of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Its constitution was 
avowedly religious. The supposed or " eponymous " 
ancestor of the totem was a mythical existence, a 
sort of deity. He was known only through a revela- 
tion, either in visions, or, through the assertions of 
the elders of the clan, in which latter case the myth 
was the origin of the relationship. Theoretically, all 
members of the totem were kinfolk, "of one blood," 
and the numerous rites connected with the lettingr of 
blood were generally to symbolise this teaching.* 

In various tribes, as among the Sioux and in Poly- 
nesia, the totem did not prevail. Its place was taken 
by societies, sacred in character, the members of 
which were bound closely together by some super- 
natural tie. As our Indians say, all the members 
" had the same medicine." The relation these so- 
cieties bear to the tribe is not dissimilar to that else- 
where held by totems. 

In nearly all primitive peoples the priesthood ex- 
erts a powerful influence in preserving the unity of 
the tribe, in presenting an immovable opposition to 
external control. This is well known to the Christian 

* The application of the blood, observes Professor Granger, " bound 
together in some way those who were present at the rite " ( Worship 
of the Romans, p. 210). This subject is fully discussed by Dr. H. C. 
Trumbull in his works, The Blood Covenant, and The Threshold 

2i8 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

missionaries and bitterly resented by them. These 
shamans and " medicine-men " are the most per- 
sistent opponents of civilisation and Christianity; 
but it must be remembered that the same conserva- 
tism on their part has for centuries been the chief 
preventive of tribal dissolution and decay. While 
we regret that they should resist what is good, we 
must recognise the value of their services to their 
people in the past.* 

The ceremonial law belongs, as I have elsewhere 
said, to the primary forms of religion. It is in full 
force, as among the Mincopies and Yahgans, where 
it is dif^cult to perceive any other form of religious 
expression. It is deemed by all to be divine in 
origin, imparted in dreams or visions by super- 
natural visitors, transcending therefore all human 
enactments. It defines the proper conduct of the 
individual, and prescribes what is allowed and what 
is forbidden to him. Obedience to it is constantly 
inculcated under the threat of the severest penalties. 

These are the main forces which moulded the 
earliest human societies known to us, and may be 
said to have first created society itself. They are all 

*Castren, in the Introduction to his Finnische Mythologie, has 
some excellent remarks on the beneficial effects of shamanism. It 
is an effort to free the human mind from the shackles of hlind natural 
forces ; it recognises the dependence of the subjective on an objective 
will, etc. 

The Lines of Development 219 

distinctly religious, and their consideration obliges 
us to acknowledge the correctness of the statement 
of a distinguished Italian, Professor Tito Vignoli, — 
" There is no society, however rude and primitive, in 
which all the relations, both of the individual and of 
the society itself, are not visibly based on super- 
stitions and mythical beliefs."* 

2. Earlier, perhaps, than any definite social organi- 
sation was the family bond which united together 
those of one kinship. This rested upon marriage, 
the religious character of which in even the rudest 
tribes I dwelt upon in the last lecture. I then ex- 
plained the matriarchal system prevalent in so many 
savage peoples. Necessarily, this exalted the pos- 
ition of woman, by conferring upon her the titular 
position of head of the house, and often the actual 
ownership of the family property. 

It is a general truth in sociology that we may 
gauge the tendencies of a given society towards pro- 
gressive growth by the position it assigns to woman, 
by the amount of freedom it gives her, and by the 
respect it pays to her peculiar faculties. Religions 
which, like Mohammedanism, reduce her to a very 
subordinate place in life, wholly secondary to that of 
the male, have worked detrimentally to the advance- 
ment of the peoples who have adopted them. 

* Myth and Science^ p. 41. 

2 20 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

In some savage tribes, the woman is a mere chat- 
tel or slave, denied actual participation in religious 
rites. But that is by no means the case with all. 
Among the Hottentots, for example, — who were, 
when first discovered, a people of respectable cult- 
ure, — a man can take no higher oath than to swear 
by his eldest sister; and such is the respect incul- 
cated through his religion, that he never speaks to 
her unless she addresses him first.* 

The more delicate nervous organisation of women 
adapts them peculiarly to the perception of those 
sub-conscious states which are the psychic sources 
of inspiration and revelation. Very widely, there- 
fore, in primitive religions they occupied the position 
of seeresses and priestesses, and were reverenced in 
accordance therewith. Among the Dyaks of Borneo, 
in former days, all the recognised priestly class were 
women. Their bodies were supposed to be the 
chosen residence of the Sangsangs, beautiful beings, 
friendly to men. These inspired women, called 
Bilians or Borich, were subject to theoleptic fits, in 
which they gave advice, foretold the future, recited 
rhythmic songs, etc. They were under no restraint 
of conduct, as what they did, it was held, was the 
prompting of the god. So firm was their influence 
that, when, in modern days, the men also became 
* Hahn, Tsuni \ Goam, p. 21. 

The Lines of Development 221 

priests, they were obliged to wear the garb of 

The Siamese also entertain this opinion. Their 
gods speak through the mouth of some chosen 
woman. When she feels the visit of the spirit to 
be near, she arrays herself in a handsome red silk 
garment, and as the deity enters her, she discourses 
of the other world, tells where lost objects are to be 
found, and the like. The assembled company wor- 
ship her, or rather the god in her. On recovering 
from her theopneustic trance, she professes entire 
unconsciousness of what has taken place, f 

The American Indians very generally concede to 
their women an exalted rank in their religious mys- 
teries. The Algonquins had quite as famous " medi- 
cine-women " as medicine-men, and the same was 
true generally. Mr. Gushing tells me that there is 
only one person among the Zufiis who is a member 
of all the sacred societies and thus knows the secrets 
of all, and that person is a woman. 

When Votan, the legendary hero of the Tzentals 
of Chiapas, left them for his long journey, he placed 
his sacred apparatus and his magical scrolls in a 
cave under the charge of a high priestess, who was 
to appoint her successor of the same sex until his 

* Ling Roth, Natives of Sarawak, vol. i., pp. 259, 271, 282 ; vol. 
ii., App. , p. clxxv. 

f Walthouse, in Jour. Anthrop. Inst., vol. v., p. 415. 

222 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

return. The secret was faithfully kept and the suc- 
cessors appointed for more than a hundred and fifty 
years after their conversion to Christianity ; until, in 
1692, on the occasion of the visit of the Bishop to 
the hamlet where the priestess lived, she disclosed 
the story, and the holy relics were burned.* 

Twenty years later, as if to avenge this, the Tzen- 
tals revolted in a body, their leader being an in- 
spired prophetess of their tribe, a girl of twenty, fired 
with enthusiasm to drive the Spaniards from 
the land and restore the worship of the ancient 
gods, f 

It is quite usual to find in early religions many 
rites, such as dances and sacrifices, which women 
alone carry out, and to which it is tabu for any man 
to be admitted. This naturally arises in those cults 
where the deities are divided sexually into male and 
female. Such in their origin were the Bacchanals of 
ancient Greece, participated in at first by women and 
girls only, celebrated in devotion to the productive 
powers of nature, which were held to belong more 
especially to the female sex. % The " wise women " 

* Nunez de la Vega, Constituciones Diocesanas de Chiapas, fol. 9. 

f The locally famous Maria Candelaria. At the head of fifteen 
thousand warriors, she defied the Spanish army for nearly a year, and, 
though defeated, was never captured. Her story is scantily recorded 
by Vicente Pineda, in his Historia de las Sublevaciones Indigenas en 
el Esiado de Chiapas, pp. 38-70. 

J Otfried MuUer, Die Etrusker, Bd. ii., ss. 77. 78. 

The Lines of Development 223 

of many primitive faiths formed a close caste by 
themselves, no male being admitted, in imitation of 
their mythological prototypes in the heavens. The 
" witches " of the Middle Ages were lineal successors 
of the Teutonic priestesses, who took as their model 
the " swan-maidens " or " wish-women " of Odin.* 

Another form of early institutions was that of the 
societies of virgins, such as that which from primi- 
tive Italic times kept alive the holy fire of Vesta, 
goddess of the hearth and home. Extensive asso- 
ciations of a similar nature were found by the Euro- 
pean explorers in Mexico, Yucatan, Peru, and 

A curious teaching of several wide-spread cults 
was that women alone were endowed with immor- 
tality. Such was the opinion of the natives of 
the Marquesas Islands, and in Samoa the myth re- 
lated that the god Supa (paralysis) ordained in the 
council of creation that the life of a man should be 
like a torch, which, when blown out, cannot be again 
lighted by blowing ; but that a woman's soul should 
live always, f 

No one can doubt that in thus assigning a high 
and often the highest place in the religious mysteries 

* Compare Keary, Outliues of Primitive Belief, p. 60 ; and Maury, 
La Magie et Astrologie, p. 386, sq. 

\ Geo. Turner, Samoa, p. g ; Dr. Tautain, in L' Anthropologie, 
tome vii., p. 548. 

224 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

to woman, many primitive religions surrounded her 
with a sacredness which was constantly recognised, 
and thus aided in the improvement of her social re- 
lations. The value of virtue and purity was in- 
creased, mere animal desires were subjected to 
religious restraint, and the relations of sex came 
increasingly to be regarded as instituted by divine 
wisdom for special purposes. 

3. Although the specifications of the ceremonial 
law were often capricious and absurd, and some- 
times positively hurtful, yet it developed the habit 
of obedience and the respect for authority. In this 
manner it potently aided the evolution of jurispru- 
dence — that is, of those rules of conduct which 
grow out of the habit of men living together and 
which are necessary to preserve amicable relations. 
These had their origin in other than religious con- 
siderations, but when once consciously recognised 
as beneficial, the religion of the tribe generally 
adopted them, claimed their creation, and threw 
around them the garb of its own protective power. 
Religion then actively aided in the fulfilment of 
purely social duties, as these were understood by 
the tribe. 

In primitive conditions, all laws are God's laws. 
As we would say, there is no separation of the civil 
and criminal from the canon law. To the Moham- 

The Lines of Development 225 

medan, the Koran is the source of all jurisprudence. 
This is a survival from early thought. 

From this it followed that the punishment of crime 
and the decisions between litigants were, properly, 
judgments of God. This universal opinion is re- 
flected in a number of traits in jurisprudence, some 
of which are still in vogue in civilised lands. The 
most noteworthy are the ordeal, trial by battle, 
oaths, and the privilege of sanctuary. 

Ordeals were universal. They all rested on the 
belief that the gods would rescue the innocent man 
from danger. He might be required to hold red-hot 
iron in his hands ; he might be plunged long under 
water ; swallow poison ; or in any other way expose 
himself to pain or death ; if he were unjustly accused, 
the invisible powers would protect him."* 

The trial by battle involved the same opinion. " If 
the Lord is on my side, why should I fear?" is the 
confident belief at the basis of every such test of 
skill and strength, f 

*0n the ordeal, see Post, Ethnologisches Jurisprudenz, Bd. ii., ss. 
459, sq.^ 479; Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvolker, Bd. i., s. 461. 
The assertion by some writers that the ordeal was not known to the 
American Indians is incorrect. For example. Captain Clark recounts 
those to test the virtue of women who have been accused. Indian 
Sign Language, pp. 45, 208. 

f See S. K. Steinmetz on " Der Zweikampf als Ordal " in his Eih- 
nologische Studien zur ersten Entwicklung der Strafe, Bd. ii., s. 
76, sq. 

2 26 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

These forms of decision have disappeared, but the 
oath remains as vigorous as ever in our law courts. 
It is, however, as has been pointed out by the able 
ethnologist and lawyer, Dr. Post, originally and in 
spirit nothing else than an ordeal. The false wit- 
ness, the perjurer, is believed to expose himself to 
the wrath of God and to suffer the consequences in 
this or another life.* 

The rite of sanctuary was distinctly religious. The 
criminal among the Hebrews, who could escape to 
the temple and cling to the horns of the altar, must 
not be seized by the officers of justice. The Chero- 
kee Indians, like the Israelites, had "cities of re- 
fuge," which they called "white towns." With the 
Acagchemem, a Californian tribe, the temples were 
so purifying that the evil-doer, were he guilty even 
of murder, who could reach them before he was 
caught, was cleansed of his sin and absolved ever 
after from any punishment for it.f 

In these vital relations we see how religion entered 
deeply into civil life, and became a guide and di- 
rector of its most essential procedures. Its develop- 
ment grew with its responsibilities and with the 
intimacy it cultivated with practical affairs. 

The codes of statutes instituted by ancient legis- 

*Post, ubi supra, Bd. ii., s. 478. 

f Adair, Hist, of the N. American Indians, p. 158 ; Boscana, Ace. 
of the Indians of California, p. 262. 

The Lines of Development 227 

lators, usually personified under some one famous 
name, as Moses, Manu, Menes, or the like, obtained 
general adoption through the belief that they eman- 
ated directly from divinity, and were part of the 
ceremonial law. Under favour of this disguise, they 
worked for the good of those who followed them, 
and gained a credence which would not have been 
conceded to them, had it been thought that they 
were of human manufacture. 

Toward merely human law the religious sentiment 
is in its nature and derivation in frequent opposition. 
It claims a nobler lineage and a higher title. In 
theory, the Church must always be above the State, 
as God is superior to man. Religion, when vital and 
active, is ever revolutionary and anarchic. It ever 
aims at substituting divine for human ordinances. 

This has been from earliest times its constant tend- 
ency. It has been a potent dissolvent of states and 
governments and of such older religious expressions 
as have become humanised by usage and formality. 

In this manner it has been the most powerful of 
all levers in stimulating the human mind to active 
enterprise and the use of all its faculties. Man owes 
less to his conscious than to his sub-conscious intelli- 
gence, and of this religion has been the chief inter- 

4. The severest blows have been dealt at primitive 

228 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

or pagan religions on account of the inferiority of 
their ethics. It has often been asserted that they do 
not cultivate the moral faculties and benevolent emo- 
tions, but stifle and pervert them. They are, there- 
fore, considered to be distinctly evil in tendency. 

This important criticism cannot be disposed of by 
a mere denial. There is no doubt that the ethics of 
barbarism is not that of a high civilisation. But if 
we understand the necessary conditions of tribal life 
in the unending conflicts of the savage state, we can 
see that the highest moral code would find no place 

All tribal religions preach a dualism of ethics, one 
for the members of the tribe, who are bound together 
by ties of kinship and by union to preserve exist- 
ence ; and the other, for the rest of the world. To 
the former are due aid, kindness, justice, truth and 
fair dealing; to the latter, enmity, hatred, injury, 
falsehood, and deceit. The latter is just as much a 
duty as the former, and is just as positively enjoined 
by both religion and tribal law. * 

The state of barbarism is one of perpetual war, in 
which each petty tribe is striving to conquer, rob, and 

* This is presented admirably and at length by M. Kulisher in an 
article " Der Dualismus der Ethik bei den primitiven Volkern," in 
the Zeitschrift fur Ethtiologie, Bd. xvii, pp. 205, sqq. He also sees 
clearly enough that the same principle, masked and denied though it 
be, reigns to-day. The " categorical imperative " of Kant, is as far 
from realisation as is " the golden rule." 

The Lines of Development 229 

destroy its neighbours. The Patagonians and Aus- 
tralians wander about their sterile lands in small 
bands, naked and shelterless, owning nothing but the 
barest necessities. But whenever two of these bands 
approach each other, it is the signal for a murderous 
struggle, in order to obtain possession of the wretched 
rags and trumperies of the opponent. 

For this reason, the development of ethics must be 
studied on inclusive lines, as to what extent they 
were cultivated between members of the same social 
unit, the totem or the tribe. The duty of kindness 
to others extended to a very limited distance, but, 
within that area, may have been, and generally was, 
punctually observed. The devotion of members of 
the same gens to each other, even to the sacrifice of 
life, has been often noted among savages. The 
duties involved by this connection were frequently 
onerous and dangerous, as in the common custom of 
blood revenge, where a man, at the imminent peril 
and often at the loss of his own life, felt constrained 
to slay the murderer of a fellow-clansman. 

The character of the early gods was, as a rule, non- 
ethical. They were generally neither wholly good 
nor wholly bad. They were more or less friendly 
toward men, but rarely constantly either beneficent 
or malignant. They were too human for that.* 

* There were, of course, some hobgoblins always ready to eat up 
or injure man ; but not for any moral or ethical reason. " They 

230 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Hence the religions which were founded upon such 
conceptions were not in their prescriptions of con- 
duct chiefly ethical, but rather ceremonial. Moral 
conduct was of less importance than the performance 
of the rites, the recitation of the formulas, and the 
respect for the tabu.'^ 

I may go farther, and say that in all religions, in 
the essence of religion itself, there lies concealed a 
certain contempt for the merely ethical, as compared 
with the mystical, in life. That which is wholly re- 
ligious in thought and emotion is conscious of another, 
and, it claims, a loftier origin than that which is 
moral only, based as the latter is, on solely social 
considerations. I have heard from the pulpits of our 
own land very gloomy predictions of the fate of the 
"merely moral man."f 

5. That which we call *' modern progress" is due 

afflict men, not out of anger or to punish sin, but because it is their 
nature to do so, " as Dalton says of the devils of the Oraons. Eth- 
nology of Bengal, p. 256. 

* This explains what Dr. Robertson Smith, in his Religion of the 
Semites, p. 140, says is so difficult to grasp, — that the primitive idea 
of holiness is apart from personal character, and even shameful 
wretches could lay claim to it. Entirely parallel instances are found 
in the history of Christian heresies, as the Anomians and Anabaptists, 
who were so holy that they could commit no sin, and hence allowed 
themselves the wildest licence. 

f It is in this sense that Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote : " Wahre 
Tugend ist unvertraglich mit auf Autoritat geglaubter Religion." 
[Gesammelte Werke, Bd. vii., p. 72.) This is a cardinal principle in 
studying the history of ethics. 

The Lines of Development 231 

to the increase of positive knowledge, the enlarge- 
ment of the domain of objective truth. To this, 
religion in its early stages made important contribu- 
tions. The motions of the celestial bodies were 
studied at first for ceremonial reasons only. They 
fixed the sacred year and the periods for festivals 
and sacrifices. Out of this grew astronomy, the 
civil calendar, and other departments of infantile 

The rudiments of mathematics were discovered 
and developed chiefly by the priestly class, and at 
first for hieratic purposes ; and the same is true of 
the elements of botanical and zoological knowledge. 
The practice of medicine owes some of its most use- 
ful resources to the observations of the "medicine- 
men " or shamans of savage tribes. 

While this much and more may justly be stated 
concerning the contributions of Religion to Science, 
there can be no question of the irreconcilable conflict 
between the two. They arise in totally different 
tracts of the human mind. Science from the con- 
scious. Religion from the sub- or unconscious intelli- 
gence. Therefore, there is no common measure 
between them. 

Science proclaims that man is born to know, 
not to believe, and that truth, to be such, must 
be verifiable. Religion proclaims that faith is su- 

232 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

perior to knowledge, and that the truth which is 
intuitive is and must be higher than that which de- 
pends on observation. Science acknowledges that 
it can reach no certain conclusions ; its final decis- 
ions are always followed by a mark of interrogation. 
Religion despises such hesitancy, and proceeds in 
perfect confidence of possessing the central and eter- 
nal verity. Science looks upon the ultimate knowa- 
ble laws of the universe as mechanical, religion as 
spiritual or demonologic. 

These differences have always existed, and have, 
in the main, resulted in placing religions at all times 
in antagonism to universal ethics, to general rules of 
conduct, and to objective knowledge. Everywhere, 
the religious portion of the community have enter- 
tained a secret or open contempt for " worldly learn- 
ing " ; everywhere they have proclaimed that the 
knowledge of God is superior to the knowledge of 
his works ; and that obedience to his law is of more 
import than the love of humanity. 

We may turn to the American Indians, the tribes 
of Siberia or the Dyaks of Borneo, and we shall find 
that the ordinary "doctor" who cured by a know- 
ledge of herbs, of nursing, and of simple mechanical 
means, was far less esteemed than the shaman who 
depended not on special knowledge but on the pos- 
session of mysterious powers which gave him control 

The Lines of Development 233 

over demons *'^ or we may take that Protestant sect 
of the Reformation, who opposed anyone learning 
the alphabet, lest he should waste his time on vain 
human knowledge f ; or a thousand other examples ; 
and the contrast is always the same. 

The conclusion, therefore, is that early religion 
did assist the development of the race along these 
lines, but only incidentally and, as it were, unwit- 
tingly ; while it was, at heart, unfriendly to them. 

6, It is otherwise when we turn to Art, especially 
esthetic Art. Its aim is the realisation, the expres- 
sion in the object, of the idea of the Beautiful. This 
idea does not belong to the conscious intelligence. 
It cannot be expressed in the formulas of positive 
knowledge. The esthetic, like the religious, emo- 
tions, send their roots far down into the opaque 
structure of the sub-conscious intelligence, and hence 
the two are natural associates. What Professor Bain 
says of Art may be extended to Religion : "Nature 
is not its standard, nor is [objective] truth its chief 
end." t 

It has been seriously questioned whether the idea 

* Ling Roth, Natives of Sarawak, vol. i., p. 271 ; Hoffman, Secret 
Societies of the Ojib'way, passim. 

f They were called the Abecedarians, because they distrusted even 
the ABC. Some learned scholars actually threw away their books 
and joined them. 

X Bain, The Senses and the Intellect, p. 607. 

234 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

of the beautiful existed among primitive peoples, 
apart from a desire for mere gaudy colouring or 
striking display. No one would doubt its universal 
presence could he but free his judgment from his 
own canons of the beautiful, and accept those which 
prevail in the savage tribe he is studying. Darwin, 
in his work on the Descent of Man, collected evi- 
dence from the rudest hordes of all continents to 
prove that all were passionate admirers of beauty, as 
measured by their own criteria ; and he reached also 
the important conclusion that their completest ex- 
pression of it was to be found in their religious art. 
" In every nation," he says, " sufficiently advanced 
to have made effigies of their gods, or of their dei- 
fied rulers, the sculptors no doubt have endeavoured 
to express their highest idea of beauty." * 

We should also remember that the same great 
teacher says : " It is certainly not true that there is in 
the human mind any universal standard of beauty ; " 
and this is so, both of the human form and of those 
expressions of the beautiful which appeal to the ear 
and the touch. The music and the metre of one 
race generally displease another ; and there is no 
one norm by which the superiority of either can be 
absolutely ascertained. 

In their own way, however, Art and Religion have 

* The Descent of Man, p. 581. 

The Lines of Development 235 

this in common, that they make a study of Perfec- 
tion, and aim to embody it in actuality ; whereas 
Science or positive knowledge confines itself to 
reality, which is ever imperfect. 

Perfection is, however, an unconditioned mode of 
existence, not measurable by our senses, and hence 
outside the domain of inductive research. The ten- 
dency of organic forms and cosmic motions is al- 
ways toward it, but they always fall short of it.* We 
are aware of it only through the longings of our sub- 
conscious minds, not through the laws of our reason- 
ing intelligence. Yet so intense is our conviction, 
not only that it is true, but that final truth lies in it 
alone, that it has ever been and will ever be the 
highest and strongest motive of human action. 

Beginning with those arts which are avowedly the 
expression of beauty in line, colour, or form, it is 
easy to show how they were fostered by the religious 
sense. The inscribed shells and tablets from the 
mounds of the Mississippi Valley present complex 
and symmetrical drawings, clearly intended for some 
mythical being or supernatural personage. 

Among the Salishan Indians of British Columbia, 
when a girl reaches maturity she must go alone to 

* As Wilhelm von Humboldt remarked : " Das Streben der Natur 
ist auf etwas Unbeschranktes gerichtet. " The meaning of this pro- 
found observation is ably discussed by Steinthal, Die sprachphilo- 
sophischen Werke IV. von Humboldt's^ p. 178. 

236 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

the hills and undergo a long period of retirement. 
At its close, she records her experiences by drawing 
a number of rude figures in red paint on a boulder, 
indicating the rites she has performed and the visions 
she has had.* Such rock-writing, or petroglyphs, 
nearly always of religious import, are found in 
every continent, and offer the beginnings of the 
art of drawing. 

It is possible that the oldest known examples, 
scratched with a flint on the bones of reindeers 
dug up in the caves of southern France, may repre- 
sent the totems or deified heroes of the clan. Cer- 
tain it is that a class of symbolic figures, which recur 
the world over, often dating from remote ages, such 
as the crescent, the cross, the svastika, the triskeles, 
the circle, and the square, were of religious intention, 
and conveyed mystic knowledge or supernatural pro- 
tection in the opinion of those who drew them. 

The early cultivation of painting in religious art 
arose chiefly from the symbolism of colours, to which 
I previously made a passing allusion. Its origin was 
in the effect which certain hues have upon the mind, 
either specifically or from association. Colour-sym- 
bolism, indeed, forms a prominent feature in nearly 
every primitive religion. The import of the differ- 
ent colours varies, but not to the degree which ex- 
* Bull. Amer. Museum Nat. History, vol, viii., p. 227. 

The Lines of Development 237 

eludes some general tendencies. The white and the 
blue are usually of cheerful and peaceful signification, 
the black and the red are ominous of strife and 
darkness. In many tribes the yellow bore the deep- 
est religious meaning. The Mayas of Yucatan as- 
signed it to the dawn and the east ; and when the 
Aztecs gathered around the dying bed of one they 
loved, and raised their voices in the pean which was 
to waft the soul to its higher life beyond the grave, 
they sang : " Already does the dawn appear, the light 
advances. Already do the birds of yellow plumage 
tune their songs to greet thee." 

These symbolic colours are those with which the 
early temples were tinted and the rude images of 
the gods stained. They were rarely harmonious, 
but they were effective, and appealed to the people 
for whom they were intended. Their preparation 
and their technical employment were improved, and, 
as the art advanced, it reacted on the religion, direct- 
ing its conceptions of divinity into higher walks and 
toward nobler ideals. 

Art in line and colour is of vast antiquity, proba- 
bly preceding that in shape or form, carving or 
sculpture. But this, too, we find was fairly under- 
stood by the cave-dwellers of France and Switzerland 
at a time when the great glacier still covered a good 
part of the European continent, and there is scarcely 

238 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

a savage tribe to-day that does not make some rude 
attempts at carving the images of its deities. 

A natural object which has a chance resemblance 
to a man or beast is chosen as a fetish, and the 
worshipper by chipping or rubbing increases slightly 
the likeness. This is the infancy of the sculptor's 
art, and it is usually for a religious purpose that it is 
exercised. Soon it is developed, and in stone, or 
bone, or wood, in baked clay, or rags, or leaves, we 
find thousands of effigies in use to represent the 
tutelary deities and the other denizens of the super- 
natural world. 

So prominent was the early progress of religious 
art in this direction that it gave the name to early 
religion itself. It was distinctly " idolatry," or 
" image worship," the objective expression over- 
whelming the inward sentiment. 

Its excess in this direction led to reactions and 
protests as long ago as the dawn of history. " Thou 
shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the 
likeness of anything," was a command taken so 
literally that it has swept away ever since in some 
of the Semitic peoples all interest in plastic or pict- 
orial art, whether sacred or secular. It was be- 
lieved that the contemplation of a divinity not 
represented by any visible object would maintain 
and develop a higher conception than if portrayed 

The Lines of Development 239 

under tangible form, no matter how beautiful or 
how symbolic. 

This opinion would not and did not exclude the 
cultivation of the beautiful under non-sensuous 
forms, such as appeal to the ear rather than to the 
eye. I refer to metre and music, to oratory and 
literary composition. 

From some cause which it might be difficult to 
explain satisfactorily the natural expression of re- 
ligious emotion in language is universally metrical. 
The rites of every barbarous tribe are conducted in 
or accompanied by rude chants or songs, which both 
stimulate the religious feelings and give appropriate 
vent to them. Many of these chants are mere re- 
petitions of phrases, or refrains, destitute of mean- 
ing, but they answer the purpose, and are the germs 
from which, in appropriate surroundings, have been 
developed the great poems of the race, the inspir- 
ations of its immortal bards. 

Hundreds of examples of these primitive religious 
chants have been collected of recent years, when, 
for the first time, their ethnologic importance has 
been understood. They present a striking similarity, 
whether from the Polynesian Islands, the desert- 
dwellers of Australia, or the Navahoes and Sioux of 
our own reservations. Many of them are scarcely 
more than inarticulate cries, but even these have a 

240 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

certain likeness, containing the same class of vowels, 
and often leading, through this physiological cor- 
relation of sound to emotion, to similar words in the 
religious language of far-distant peoples. 

Everywhere we find these metrical outbursts con- 
trolled by the sense of rhythmical repetition ; and it 
was to accentuate this that instruments of music 
were first invented. Their rudest forms may be 
seen in the two flat sticks which the Australians use 
to beat time for their singing in their corroborees, or 
festal ceremonies ; or in the hollow log, pounded by 
a club, which some Central American tribes still 
employ. All the native American musical instru- 
ments appear to have been first invented for aiding 
the ritual ; and tradition assigns with probability 
the same origin for most of those in the Old World. 

Uniform rhythmic motion is a powerful means of 
intensifying collective suggestion ; and its action is 
the more potent the more we yield our minds to the 
control of their unconscious activities, — the realm in 
which the religious sentiment is supreme. 

In the initiation ceremonies of the Australians — 
called the Bora — the youth are obliged to listen to 
long speeches from the old men, containing instruct- 
ions in conduct and the ancestral religious beliefs. 
Such customs as this, — and in one or another form 
they are universal in primitive religions — led to the 

The Lines of Development 241 

development of the art of Oratory. It was culti- 
vated assiduously in primitive conditions. We have 
several volumes largely filled with the prolix addresses 
of the Aztec priests and priestesses on various solemn 
occasions, as birth, entering adult life, marriage, etc.* 
To learn these long formulas by heart was one of 
the duties, and not an easy one, of the neophytes. 

In most tribes they are couched in forms apart 
from those of daily use, the words being unusual, 
with full vowels and sonorous terminations. Some 
of these peculiarities survive in the " pulpit elo- 
quence " of our own day, testifying to the influence 
of religious thought on the development of the modes 
of dignified expression. 

It was in this connection and under this inspir- 
ation that man invented the greatest boon which 
humanity has ever enjoyed, — a system of writing, a 
means of recording and preserving facts and ideas. 
Our present alphabet is traced lineally back to the 
sacred picture-writing of ancient Egypt ; and the 
less efficient method employed by the natives of 
Mexico and Central America originated in devices 
to preserve the liturgic songs and religious formulas. 
For generations, in both areas, its chief cultivation 
and extension lay with the priestly class : although 

* They were preserved in the original tongue by the first mission- 
aries, Sahagun, Olmos, Bautista, etc, , and have, in part, been pub- 

242 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

its final application to the uses of daily life was due 
to merchants rather than to scholars. 

This discovery made possible such a treasure as a 
literature ; and that we find its beginnings and old- 
est memorials chiefly of religious contents is ample 
testimony to this incalculable debt we owe to the 
religious sentiment. The papyri of Egypt, the 
codices of Central America, the Sanscrit Rig Veda, 
and the Persian Vendidad testify to the diligence 
with which the ancient worshippers sought to pre- 
serve the sacred chants and formulas. 

We discern the same anxiety among rude sav- 
ages to pass down in their integrity the liturgies of 
their worship ; and in the " meday sticks " of the 
Chipeways and the curiously incised wooden tablets 
of Easter Island, we have the beginnings of written 
literature, — always the purpose being religious in 

It is unnecessary to dwell in detail upon the foster- 
ing influence of early religion on the useful arts. In 
their numerous applications to the ritual and the ob- 
jective expression of the religious sentiment, they 
were constantly stimulated by it and by the reward 
it was ever prepared to offer, both in this world and 
that to come. 

But one art of utility was so pre-eminently religious 
in its source that it merits especial comment, that 

The Lines of Development 243 

is, building or architecture. Nearly all the great 
monuments of the ancient world, most of the im- 
portant structures of primitive tribes everywhere, 
have in them something religious in aim, or are 
avowedly so. We know little or nothing of the 
builders of the mysterious " megalithic monuments," 
the dolmens and cromlechs which to the number of 
thousands rise on the soil of France and England ; 
but their arrangement and character leave no doubt 
that they were for some religious purpose. So the 
mighty piles which excite our astonishment in the 
valley of the Nile or the Euphrates, or on the high- 
lands of Mexico, or in the tropical forests of Yucatan, 
reveal the same inspiration. 

In his altars and temples, in his shrines and funerary 
monuments, his fanes and cathedrals, man has at all 
times expended his efforts and his means with a pro- 
digality lavished on no other edifices. The orders of 
architecture arose from his desire to erect dwellings 
worthy of the god who should inhabit them. No 
beauty of line, no majesty of proportion, no abund- 
ance of decoration, was too great to secure this pur- 
pose. Such surroundings in time imparted dignity 
and permanence to the cult, and embellished the re- 
ligious sentiment through noble artistic associations. 

7. Let us now turn from these considerations of a 
general nature to the more pointed one, whether 

244 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

primitive religions exerted an improving influence 
on the independent life of the individual ; for that is 
the test to which all institutions should finally be 

The savage is not the type of a free man, although 
in popular estimation he is generally so considered. 
He is, in fact, tyrannically fettered by traditional 
laws and tribal customs. He is merged in his clan 
or gens, against whose rules, often most painful and 
arbritrary, he dares take no step. As an individual, 
he cannot escape from their invisible chains.* 

His only avenue to permitted freedom is through 
the higher law of his personal religion. If he pleads 
that his own tutelary spirit has ordered him to an 
V act contrary to custom, or that his own magical 
powers enable him to defy established usage, his 
disregard of it will be condoned. 

In savage life, the inspired and the insane are 
always ranked in the same category as above the 
law. Among the Kamschatkans, if a man declares 
that his personal divinity has in a dream commanded 
him to unite with some woman of the tribe, it is her 
duty to obey, no matter what her position or re- 

* This is further set forth in Rostock, Das Religionswcsen der 
rohesten Naturvolker, p. 145, sq.; and Curr, The Australian Race, 
vol. i., pp. 51-54. 

fKlemm, Culiurgeschichte, Bd. ii., s. 309. 

The Lines of Development ^45 

Although at times this freedom was doubtless 
abused, it secured for the individual a degree of 
personal liberty which he could have attained in no 
other manner. By recognising a law for the single 
conscience above that of either ancestral usage or 
popular religion, it paved the way to the develop- 
ment of the individual, free from all restraints other 
than his clear judgment would lay upon himself. 

He who possessed the hidden knowledge, the 
esoteric gnosis, was by that knowledge released from 
bondage to his fellow-men. As the poet Chapman 
so well says : 

** There is no danger to a man who knows 
What life and death is ; there 's not any law 
Exceeds his knowledge : neither is it lawful 
That he should stoop to any other law," 

This sense of superiority to all surroundings is 
disclosed everywhere in mystic religions. A Hindu 
prophetess was a few years ago imprisoned by the 
English civic judge for violation of the local laws 
and disturbing the peace. Her only statement in 
defence was : " Years ago, when a girl, I met in the 
jungle, face to face, the god Siva. He entered into 
my bosom. He abides in me now. My blessing is 
his blessing ; my curse his curse." * The Malay, 
*Walthouse, in Jour. Anthrop. Soc., vol, xiv., p. 189. 

246 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

when he " runs amuck," regards himself exonerated 
from all restraint, moral or social ; and that custom 
and belief are not confined to his race.* 

It was held among the ancients that those who 
are " born of God," that is, inspired by the divine 
afflatus, are not only above human law, but "are 
not subject even to the decrees of Fate/'f 

The ceremonial law, so powerful in primitive con- 
dition, must have exerted a beneficial influence on 
the training of the individual. Its severe restric- 
tions, its minute and ceaseless regulations of his life, 
taught him self-control and self-sacrifice. His first 
duty was not to himself but to the other members 
of his clan or totem. Obedience and systematic 
restraint were useful lessons inculcated on him from 
earliest childhood. The Congo Negro, the Andaman 
Islander, the American Indian, for whom his spons- 
ors had taken vows at his birth, grew up to consider 
the fulfilment of these the chief end of his life. 
Their violation would entail disaster and disgrace 
not merely on himself but on his people. His re- 
ligious education, therefore, cultivated in him some 

*The amok of the Malays, the mali-mali of the Tagalese, etc., is 
a maniacal religious psychosis in which the subject will rush violently 
through a street, killing or wounding any one he meets. See Dr. 
Rasch's discussion of it in Centralblatt fiir Anthropologie, vol. i., p. 
54, who considers it a " suggestive influence." Similar examples are 
common among American Indians. 

f Arnobius, Adversus Gcnks, bk. ii., cap. 62. 

The Lines of Development 247 

of the finest qualities of perfected manhood, — self- 
abnegation and altruism ; for, as Professor Granger 
well says, " The primitive idea of holiness implies 
as its chief element, relation to the communal WiQ^ * 

If, therefore, with some writers, we must concede 
that in primitive conditions the individual was ever 
conceived with reference to the gens or community, 
on the other hand, we must recognise the potency 
of the religious element occasionally to separate him 
from others as one of "the elect"; to train him in [y 
self-realisation and self-government ; and to cherish 
in his mind the germs of a free personality, f 

More difificult is the decision of the question 
whether primitive religions increased the happiness 
of the individual. 

I have mentioned more than once the generally 
joyous character of many of them, as seen in their 
rituals. But it would be a grave error not to dwell 
also upon the dread of evil spirits which is so con- 
spicuous a part of most, and which keeps their vo- 
taries in a state of perpetual anxiety. Nor can the 
self-sacrifice I have referred to increase the cheerful- 

* Worship of the Romans, p. 211. This was, of course, but one 
side of it, though usually the most important. 

f Professor Lazarus observes : " In der Religion zeigt sich der ganze 
Mensch" (Zeilsckrift fur Volkerpsychologie , Bd. i., s. 47). That is, 
that the individual in no other condition of mind realises and reveals 
his full personality so completely as in that which is created by the 
religious sentiment. 

248 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

ness of life, associated as it often is with painful 
mutilations, with prolonged fasting, and exposure 
to cold and heat. The cruelty of the ceremonies 
is often shocking, the edicts of the religious code 

To compensate this, " the fearful looking forward 
to the wrath to come," the fertile source of mental 
misery in advanced faiths, scarcely exists in those of 
primitive conditions. Death itself is thus deprived 
of its greatest terror, and the indifference with which 
it is met by most savages is matter of common note 
among travellers. 

Nor does there exist in primitive conditions that 
fertile source of human misery, religious bigotry or 
intolerance, with its fatal train of persecutions, tor- 
ture, and suspicion. The bloodiest sacrifices of 
heathendom have never entailed such personal un- 
happiness as the gloomy fanaticism of some forms 
of Christianity. 

All these several lines of development are, it will 
be noted, external to religion itself. They modify it, 
and are modified by it. But there are other changes, 
wrought within the religious sense itself, which we 
must now consider. 

Religions, like all other institutions, are subject 
to growth and decay, evolution and retrogression, 
development and death. 

The Lines of Development 249 

The vast majority of primitive faiths have dis- 
appeared totally, leaving no trace behind except the 
nameless images of their gods, or not even these. 
They were obliterated by conquest, or merged and 
lost in other forms of belief, or degenerated and petri- 
fied until they died a natural death. 

Others grew and extended, vitalised by new 
thoughts, appropriate to the new environment, or 
were carried far and wide by victorious rulers or en- 
thusiastic votaries. It is generally true, as Professor 
Toy has observed, that, in early conditions, the life 
of a religion depends on the life of the tribe or state 
which has adopted it, and that " the larger the com- 
munity, the more persistent and vigorous its religion 
will be."* 

But the secret of success lay within rather than 
without ; the particular faith must pass through cer- 
tain internal transformations in order to fit it for the 
wider field opened to it. The chief of these stadia 
of progress may be described as a transference of re- 
ligious thought : I. From the object to the symbol ; 
2. From the ceremonial law to the personal ideal; 
and 3. From the tribal to the national conception of 

I. The rudest phases of religion connect the ideas 
of the Divine with particular external objects, a tree, 

* Judaism and Christianity , pp. 5-7. 

250 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

a rock, a special place, around which grow up a series 
of local myths and usages. Such ideas, to develop, 
must break away from these connections with con- 
crete and localised relations. They must become 
generalised, and the symbol be substituted for the 

Instead of a particular tree, for instance, the sign 
of the tree, the cross or the pole (ashcrhn), will be 
adopted. This represents not the original object 
but the personified activity, the spirit or god which 
was supposed earlier to inhabit the given object or 

Thus the mind is freed from its bondage to a purely 
material, geographically single, perception, and the 
first step is taken toward universal or world-ideas 
of divinity. In metaphysical terms, it is a passage 
from the concrete to the abstract, from the particular 
to the general, from the real to the ideal ; a line of 
progress which must necessarily be followed by man's 
intelligence in order to develop his especially human 

2. The second important step was that which sub- 
stituted for the bare and cold prescriptions of the 
ceremonial law the ideal of personal perfection. 
The beginnings of this are visible even in the lowest 
faiths, as we see in their veneration of those who, 
they considered, had fulfilled most completely their 

The Lines of Development 251 

notions of duty. Such persons were held to have 
descended from the gods, or were inspired by them. 

It is true these early ideals are of little more than 
physical strength and mental cunning ; but their 
attributes gradually expanded to include corporeal 
beauty, intellectual power, and ethical grandeur. 

We thus arrive, still in primitive conditions, to 
such personal ideals as Quetzalcoatl among the 
Aztecs, of whom it was said in their legends that he 
was of majestic presence, chaste in life, averse to 
war, wise and generous in actions, and delighting in 
the cultivation of the arts of peace ; or as we see 
among the Peruvians, in their culture hero Tonapa, 
of whose teachings a Catholic writer of the sixteenth 
century says : " So closely did they resemble the pre- 
cepts of Jesus, that nothing was lacking in them but 
His name and that of His Father." * 

When these ideals were not distinctly men, but 
were partially or wholly divine, nevertheless the con- 
templation of an existence whose chief aim was to 
do good to those who complied with his instructions, 
to protect those who fled to him, and to grant the 
petitions of those who prayed to him, was both a 
comforting and ennobling conception. 

3. Professor Thiele in his work on the ancient 

* The literature relating to these august characters in American 
legendary literature is presented in my American Hero-Myths, pas- 
sim j also, Myths of the New World, pp. 336, 337. 

252 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

Egyptian religion makes the wise observation : "■ The 
revolution brought about by religious universahsm 
is the greatest and most complete which the history 
of the world can show." * 

It is true that no primitive religion aimed at uni- 
versahsm or even deemed it desirable or possible. 
The gods of the gens or tribe belonged to that com- 
munity, were its own exclusively, and stood in antag- 
onism to all other gods. There was no notion of 
proselytising or missionary work, no desire to extend 
the worship of the tribal god beyond the limits of 
the tribe. 

This exclusiveness was broken down by the inter- 
communication of tribes, their confederations and 
conquests, which forced the religious conceptions to 
take broader views. The priests and philosophers 
began to recognise in the deities of other nations 
types of their own, as we see in Greek and Roman 
writers. This gradually led to the comprehensive 
speculations of the world-religions, in which all men 
are considered to stand equally before God, and all 
entitled to the same share of His grace. 

The early stages of these transitions are easily 
recognised in primitive faiths. The adoption of 
foreign gods appears early. When a tribe met with 
frequent reverses, it began to distrust the power of 

* Ancient Egyptian Religion, Introduction. 

The Lines of Development 253 

its own deities, and apply to those of its conquerors 
for aid. The custom of exogamy introduced divinities 
of other gentes. Personal and communal wants led 
to pilgrimages to the famous oracles and fanes of 
distant religions, and the votaries in returning 
brought with them the memory and the cult of 
alien gods. In many such ways the barriers of the 
tribal faith were gradually broken down. 

We may expect to find faint traits or none of the 
purely abstract stage of religion in the cults of sav- 
age tribes. Yet they are not absolutely lacking. 

This abstract stage is when the Idea, no longer 
merged in the Ideal, stands by itself as the recog- 
nised guide of conscious effort. The conception of 
infinity or perfection is not then conceived in rela- 
tion to a being or personality. It will still act as 
the loftiest motive of action, the deepest source of 
spiritual joy. 

Thus understood and recognised, it will not be a 
cold product of the reason, but the warm and potent 
efflux of the heart, of the impulses, and the emotions. 
In him who rises to this height, the sympathy for 
and the active love of the good and the true will be 
all the stronger, because he will see that man must 
hope only from man, from diligent self-perfecting ; 

254 Religions of Primitive Peoples 

but may thus hope confidently from the best there 
is in man. 

Toward this end, though unseen and unacknowl- 
edged, were all religions of primitive peoples uncon- 
sciously directing and impelling the human mind. 
Long has been the path, many the false routes fol- 
lowed, far away is still the goal ; but ever firmer in 
faith, and clearer in purpose, man will in due time 
and fit season be established in this, the last and 
innermost mystery of his religious nature. 



Achelis, Th., 134, 194, 195 

Adair, J., 98, 226 

Andree, R., q6, 126, 1S4, 197 

Andrian, von, 155 

Arnobius, 71, 100, 147, 166, 246 

Augustine, St., 29 

Bain, A., 233 

Balboa, M. C, 190 

Bastian, A., 9, 134 

Bautista, J., 241 

Bergen, Fanny D., 139 

Bertonio, L., 67 

Bleek, W. H., 57, 113, 144, 205 

Bonavia, E., 152 

Boscana, Y. de, 226 

Bourke, J. G., 32 

Brincker, H., 142 

Broca, P., 46 

Bruno, G., 136 

Buchman, Prof., 8 

Bucke, M., 52 

Buckle, 81 

Calloway, Bishop, 31, 52, 57, 66, 

82, 93, 147, 169 
Castren, A., 14, 78, 83, 218 
Chapman, J., 245 
Charlevoix, P., 170, 195 
Cicero, M. T., 180 
Clark, VV. P., 14, 70, 72, 76, 103, 

181, 205, 213 
Clodd, E., 21 

Codrington, R. H., 63, 131 
Cogolludo, P., 175, 195 
Coleridge, S. T., 171 
Comte, A., 133 
Conant, L. L., 122 

Coreal, F., 208 

Cuoq, M., 20, 93 

Curr, E. M., 13, 57, 58, 65, 90, 

140, 174 
Gushing, F. H., 125, 221 

Dalton, E. F., 89, 137, 160, 230 

Darwin, Ch., 36, 49, no, 234 

Davis, T. Rhys, 28 

Disraeli, B., 87 

Dolbear, Prof., 85 

Dorsey, J. O., 136, 152, 193 

Dyer, L., 62 

Egede, P., 143 
Ende, Van, M., 87, 136 
Ephrem, Saint, 51, 100, 125 
d'Estrey, M., 161 
Evans, Arthur J., 209 

Fechner, 153 

Fenton, 210 

Fewkes, J. W., 39 

Fletcher, Alice, 60, 152 

Flugel, Dr., 14 

Fornander, A., 63, 77, 126 

Frazer, J. G., 21, 108, 117, 151, 

Freibold, F., 74, 175 
Friedmann, Dr., 14 

Garcia. G. de, 148 

Gill, W. W., 59, 69, 74, 77, 87, 

Gough, A. E., 51, 57, 68, 84 
Granger, F., 6, 38, 66, 97, 134, 

180, 206, 217, 247 
Gregg, Capt. , 196 



Index of Authorities 

Grey, George, 7g, 91, 104 
Grimm, J., 76, 96, 128, 180, 182, 

1 86 
Grimme, H., 40 
Gru]5pe, Otto, 172 
Giiigniaut, 144 
Gumilla, P., 208 

Hahn, Th., 75, 77, 220 

Hale, Horatio, 16, 63, 70, 95, 

121, 125, 136, 149 
Hartland, E. L., 8, 197 
Hasselt, von, 132 
Helmholtz, Prof., 85 
Herve, G., 46 
Herzog and Plitt, 168 
Hippolytus, 162 
Hoernes, M., 35 
Hoffman, W., 233 
Holtzmann, 188 
Holub, H., 97 
Honegger, J, J., 9, 83 
Hovelacque, A., 46 
Hopkins, E. W,, 79, 149, 168 
Howitt, A. B., 72, 98, 168, 198 
Humboldt, W. von, 230, 235 
Hyades, Dr., 104 

Jellinghaus, 169 

Kalewala, the, 144 

Kant, I., 228 

Keary, C. F., 117, 151, 162, 223 

Keil, Prof., 121 

Klemm, K., 57, 65, 95, 109 

Knight, P., 51, 180 

Kohl, J. G., 199 

Koran, the, 99, 225 

Kuhn, Prof., 112, 115 

Kulischer, M., 228 

Lafitau, P., 204 
Lang, A., 47 
Lazarus, Prof., 247 
Lenormant, F., 89, 91, 96, 173 
Leon, Martin de, 142 
Lubbock, Sir John, 27, 30 

Mackenzie, A., 194 

Maistre, J. de, 43 
Man, E. W., 75, no, 126, 145 
Matthews, W., 50, 63, 106, 150 
Maury, A., 66, 223 
Meltzer, Otto, 140 
Meyen, H., 144 
Meyer, A. B., 187 
Middendorf, Dr., 59 
Mirandola, P. de, 92 
Montenegro, A. de la P., 212 
Montesinos, F., 141, 148 
Morice, P., 116 
Morris, J. B., 51, 100 
Mortillet, G. de, 34, 35 
Mailer, F. Max, 115 
Muller, O., 140, 164, 222 
Musters, G. €., 77, 177, 205 

Navarrete, M., 208 
Neale, J. M., 5, 179 
Nevins, Dr., 52 
Newell, W. W., 139 

Olmos, A. de, 241 
d'Orbigny, A., 151, 155, 200 
Oviedo, F., 190 

Padilla, D., 170 

Palmer, E., 17, 153, 202 

Paulsen, F., 85 

Peschel, O., 44 

Petitot, E., 125 

Pfleiderer, J. G., 28, 133 

Pietschmann, R., 24, 133 

Pinches, 62 

Pineda, V., 222 

Pinsero, Prof., 36 

Popol Vuh, the, 91, 99, 136, 

Post, A. H., 6, 203, 225, 226 
Powers, Stephen, 210 
Preuss, K. T., 213 
Putnam, F. W., 119 

Rasch, Dr., 246 
Ratzel, F., 44 
Reclus, E., 70 
Rialle, G. de, 133 
Ridley, W., 51 

Index of Authorities 


Romanes, G. J., 85 
Roskoff, G., 28, 31, 244 
Roth, H. Ling, 39, 67, 77, 94, 
102, 140, 160 

Sahagun, B., 68, 99, 106, 191 
Sayce, Professor, 20, 49, 90, 99 
Scherer, E., 112 
Schoolcraft, H. H., 125, 196 
Schrader, Prof., 22, 28, 70, 128 
Schurtz, H., 44 
Schwaner, Dr., 39 
Schwartz, F. L. W., 80 
Shelley, P. B., 42, 139 
Smith, W. Robertson, 46, 112, 

168, 172, 177, 180, 187, 230 
Smyth, B. B., 52, 74, 80 
Spencer, Herbert, 30, 42 
Spinoza, B., 47, 136 
Steinen, K. von den, 65, 72 
Steinmetz, S. R., 71, 73, 206, 

Steinthal, H., 235 
Stevenson, Maria C. , 193 
Stoll, Otto, 56, 99, loi 
Sully, James, 14 

Tautain, Dr., I2I 
Thiele, C. P., 38, 251 
Tolstoi, Count, 87 
Tonty, S. de, 208 
Torquemada, P., 148 
Toy, C. H., 3, 249 
Trumbull, H. €., 217 
Tschudi, J. von, 61, 183 
Turner, George, 223 
Turner, L. M., 65 
Turner, W. Y., 31 
Tyler, E. B., 135, I53 

Vega, N. de la, 222 
Vignoli, T., 219 
Venegas, M., 141 

Waitz, Th., 132, 213, 225 
Walcott, 159 

Walthouse, J.. 89, 221, 245 
Westcott, S., 121 
Willoughby, C. C,, 119 
Wood, C. J., 169 

Ximenes, F., 142 

Yarrow, H. C,, 207 


Abecedarians, sect of, 233 

Accadians, the, 23 

Aditi, a Sanscrit Diety, 83 

African tribes, 26 

Ages of the World, the, 125 

Aiapakal, deity of the Yahgans, 

Air, worship of, 143 
Algonkian myths, 70, 72, 150 
Alphabet, origin of, 241 
Amazulus, the, 57, 169 
American culture indigenous, 24 
Amok, the, of Malays, 246 
Anaphora, influence of the, 179 
Ancestor-worship, 42, 70, 71 
Andaman Islanders, beliefs of, 

72, 75, 113, 115, see Min- 

Androgynous deities, i6g 
Animism as a religious theory, 

46, 135 
Anthropism, 162 
Anthropology, defined, i 
Apache Indians, the, 32, 33 
Archaeology, what it teaches, 18 
Architecture, religious, 243 
Art and religion, 233 
Aryans, the early, 22 
Asherim, the sacred pole, 250 
Atala, deity in Borneo, 77 
Atheism, in Buddhism, 28 

" " among Africans, 31 
Aurora Australis and Borealis, 

Australians, native, 13, 16, 17, 

25, 51, 52, 65, 72, 126, 140, 

153, 158, 167, 174, 19S 
Automatism of the human mind, 


" Auto-suggestion," 55 
Avatea, see Vatea 
Awonawilona, god of the Zunis, 

Aztec prayers, 106 
Aztecs, the, 126, 144, 145, 167, 

191, 240 

Babylonia, ancient, 20, 23 
Bacchanalia, the, 1S5, 222 
Baiame, an Australian deity, 74 
Baptism, rite of, 144, 145 
Basutos, their knowledge of God, 

Battle, trial by, 225 
"Beatific vision," the, 53, 114 
Beauty, the ideal of, 234 
Bechuanas, beliefs of, 82 
Beth-el, in Semitic myth, 146 
Bilians, inspired women, 220 
Bird as a sacred animal, 158 
Birth, rites relating to, 193 
Bi-sexual deities, 169 
Bitol, a deity of the Mayas, 123 
Black drink of Creek Indians, 


Bones, beliefs respecting, 131, 

" Book-religions," 50 

Boonbolong, a magic word, 90 

Bora, the Australian, 119, 198, 

Borneo, natives of, see Dyaks 

Bororos, the, 65 

Brazil, native tribes of, 65, 67, 

Brutes, devoid of religious senti- 
ment, 36: worship of, 157 

Buddhism, alleged in America, 24 



Index of Subjects 

Buddhism, atheistic in creed, 28 
Burial, modes of, 207 
Bushmen, the, 57, 113, 144, 205 

Cabalistic doctrines, 92 
Canaras, a Dravidian tribe, 148 
Cannibalism, 17, igo, 206, 208 
Carrier Indians, myths of, 116 
Cause, the notion of, 44, 45 
Caves as holy places, 156 
Ceremonial circuit, the, 182 
Chaldean mythology, 145, 152, 

Charm-songs, 89, 93 
Child mind compared to Savage 

mind, 14 
Chinese magical rites, 1 75 
Choctaws, myths of, 98, 196 
Colours, symbolism of, 146, 236 
Comanche Indians, the, 72 
Commensality in rites, 181 
Communal rites, 177 ; marriage, 

Comparative method, the, 5 
Cosmic consciousness, 52 
Cosmical concepts, the, 118 
Couvade, the, explained, 193 
Creation, the, how understood, 

123 sq. 
Creek Indians, the, 67 
Cross, symbolism of the, 152 
Crowd, influence of, 178 
Cuchi, an Australian deity, 80 

Dakotas, religious views of the, 

Danu, an Irish Goddess, 140 
Dawn, myths of the, 75 
Dead, cult of the, 70, 71 
Death, rites relating to, 206 
'Deluge, myth of the, 122, 126 
Demoniac possession, 52 
Diana, the Ephesian, 147 
Dido, a moon goddess, 140 
Dieyeris, an Australian tribe, 

Divination, methods of, 11 1 
Drama, of the Universe, 122 ; 

religious, origin of, 183 j^. 

Dravidian tribes, the, 26, 105 
Dreams and dreaming, 64 sqq. 
Dusdachtschish, a Kamtschatkan 

god, 165 
Dyaks, the, of Borneo, 39, 67, 

123, 158, 220 

Ea, a Babylonian deity, 99, 145, 

Earth, worship of the, 145 
Easter Island, images in, 83 
Echo in myths, 86 
Egg as a religious symbol, 159 
Egypt, early religions of, 23, 24 
Elements, worship of the, 141 
Emanation, the doctrine of, 162, 

Endymion, fable of, 37 
Epochs of Nature, the, 125 
Eponymous ancestors, 161 
Eskimos, the, 65, 72, 158 
Ethics and religion, 228 sq. 
Ethiopians, the, 26 
Ethnology defined, 2 
Etruscans the, 23, 142 
Eucharist, heathen analogies to, 

Euhemerus, doctrines of, 42 
Evocatio deorum, the, 104 

Family, the primitive, 201, 219 
Fatherhood of God, the, 124, 

Fear in religion, 45, 46 
Fetishism explained, 131 sq. 
Fetish water of Africans, 67 
Finns, beliefs of the, 73, 192 
Fire, worship of, 142 
Fish in sacred art, 161 
Flint stone in myths, 149 
Folk-lore, value of, 20 
Four as sacred number, 120 
Freedom, limited in savage 

tribes, 244 
Frog as a sacred animal, 161 

" Genius," explained, 165 
Ghosts, the fear of, 73 ; beliefs 
about, 76 

Index of Subjects 


Gnosis, the esoteric, 245 
" God," derivation of, 61, 62 
God-stones, 149 
Goras, customs of, 89 

Hamites, the, 26 
Happiness and religion, 247 
Hidatsa Indians, the, 63, 150 
High places sacred, 155 
Hills sacred, 77, 155 
Hill of God, 77, 155 
Hill of Heaven, the, 76, 155 
Historic method, the, 5 
Holiness, primitive idea of, loS, 

Homi, deity of Hottentots, 77 
Hiia, a sacred interjection, 61 
Huaca in Peru, 102, 182 
Huemac, an Aztec deity, 82 
Human sacrifices, 189 sq. 
Huracan, an American deity, 

Hypnogogic hallucinations, 66 

" Ideal of Reason," the, 44 
Idolatry in early religion, 238 
Illogical reasoning of savages, 

Incineration of dead, 210 
" Indigetes dii," the Roman, 71 
Indigitamenta, of Romans, 97 
Infinite, the perception of the, 

Inhumation of dead, 209 
" Inner light," the, 43 
Insanity, of savage mind, 14 
Ipurinas, a Brazilian tribe, 140 
Isis, the many-named, 99 
Itelmen, a Kamtschatkan tribe, 


Jade, in myths, 149 

Joyous character of early rites, 

Jupiter, his base traits, 166 

Kaaba, a stone, 147 
Kamtschatkans, the, 57, 65, 109, 
165, 244 

Ka-ne, a Polynesian deity, 74 
Khonds, a Dravidian tribe, 105 
Knowledge, tree of, 153 
Koders, a Dravidian tribe, 149 
Ku, a Polynesian deity, 121 
Kutka, god of the Kamtschat- 
kans, 109, 166 

Language and myth, 114 sq. 
Law, the ceremonial, 218, 224 
Life and Death, ideas of, 68 

Life, as a divine attribute, 68 ; 

and its transmission, 164, 200 
Light, the adoration of, 74 sq. 
Linguistics, the study of, 19, 35, 

115 ; influence on religious 

ideas, 20, 115 
Liturgy, power of the, 17S 
Lizard, the, as a symbol, 161 
Lono, a Polynesian deity, 121 
Love as a root of religion, 170 
Love charms, 148 

Magic, sympathetic, 173 

Magical rites, 175 

Mahopa, a name of divinity, 63 

Mamit, the curse, 90 

Man worshipped as a god, 161 

Mana in Polynesian dialects, 

Mandan Indians, 13, 150 
Mangaians, myths of, 77, 86 
Manito of Algonquins, 102, 125 
Mantras, power of, 89 
Maoris, the, 83, 103, 143 
Maria Candelaria a heroine, 222 
Marriage, rites relating to, 200, 

Masks, religious use of, 184 
" Master of Life," the, 69 
Maya, the doctrine of, 68 
Mayas, the tribe of, 123, 125, 

151, 156, 174, 199 ; shamans, 

Meday sticks, 242 
Medicine-men, Indian, 52 ; 

women, 221 
Melanesians, beliefs of, 131, 148 


Index of Subjects 

Menhirs, of Celts, 149 
Mexicans, ancient, 125, 148, 149, 

151, 155, 179 
Mexico, ancient, 24 
Michoacan, Indians of, 69 
Milky way, worship of, 141 
Mincopies, beliefs of the, 72, 

109, 115, 126; see Anda- 

Molemo, an African deity, 97 
Moon-worship, 139 sq. 
Motu, a tribe, 31 
Mourning, customs of, 212 
Moxos, an American tribe, 155 
Mummies, why made, 211 
Mumpal, an Australian deity, 

Music in religion, 240 
Mysticism, religious, source of, 

Mythical cycles, the Universal, 

Myths, meaning of, 112 sq. 

Nagualism, references to, 67, 

156, 175 
Nahuas, myths of the, 148, 151, 

195, 196 
Name, the sacred, 93 sq. 
Name-soul, the, 96 
Names, rites relating to, 195 
Names of the dead avoided, 95 
Nanabojou, a hero-god, 70 
Natal, natives of, 52 
Nature, conflict of, 127 
Navahoes, a prayer of the, 105 ; 

deity of the, 169 
Navel'of the Sky, the, 78 
Neolithic period, the, 33 
Nervous susceptibility of savages, 


Nicaraguans, customs of, 190 
Njambe, god of the Marutse, 97 
Norns of Teutonic mythology, 

Num, god of the Samoyeds, 83 
Numbers, the sacred, 119 
Nurali, an Australian deity, 74, 


Cannes, a Chaldean god, 161 
Oaths are ordeals, 226 
One-legged god, the, 98 
Oraons, cult of the, 137, 230 
Ordeals in religions, 225 
Origin of religion, theories about, 

41 j^^. 
Osiris, worship of, 24 
Oztoteotl, a Mexican god, 156 

Palaeolithic man, 34 

Papa. Rock, a god of the Ta- 

hitians, 147 
Papuans, customs of , 186 
Paradise, the earthly, 126 
Parjanja, deity in the Vedas, 81 
Parliament of Religions, the, 28 
Patagonians, 177 
Patol, a deity of the Mayas, 123 
Pawnee war song, 67 
Perfection the aim of Religion, 


Personality, the Sense of, 49 

Personal rites, 191 

Peru, culture of, 24 

Peruvians, myths and rites of, 
141, 142, 148, 190, 251 

Petara, sacred name in Borneo, 

Peyotl, an intoxicant, 67 

Pilgrimages in primitive re- 
ligions, 157, 253 

Pita, Father, the Brahmanic, 168 

Places, worship of, 154 

Plant-soul, the, 153 

Pleiades, worship of the, 140 

Po in Polynesian Myths, 125 

Pole, the sacred, 152, 250 

Polynesians, the, 25, 58, 59, 121, 
124, 127, 140, 149, 158, 195 

Prayer in primitive faiths, 103 

" Primitive peoples defined, 11 

Prophecy explained, no 

Psychic automatism, 54 

Psychologic Method, the, 6 

Psychology, experimental, 7 

Puberty, rites relating to, 197 

Pueblo Indians, the, 39 

Index of Subjects 


Puluga, god of the Mincopies, 
75. 78, 113. 116 

Quetzalcoatl, a hero-god, 145, 

Quiche Indians, the, 72, 155, 169 

Rain-making, rites of, 174 
Reciprocal principle, worship of, 

Revelation, universality of, 50 
Ritual in Religion, 172 sq 
Kongo, a Polynesian deity, 79 

Sacrifice as a rite, 186 sq. 
Samoyeds, beliefs of, 14, 67, 83 
Sanctuary, rite of, 226 
Sangsangs of Borneo, 220 
Saviour, myths of the, 128 
Science and religion, 231 
" Science of religion " premature, 

Selene, the goddess, 37 
Semiades, customs of, 196 
Semites, primitive, 23 
Seposition of dead, 209 
Serpent-worship, 160 
Sex in deities, 20 
Shamanism, origin of, 51, 57 ; 

nature of, 136, 218 
Shamans, their occult powers, 

65, 232 
Sibiric tribes, the, 26 
Sioux Indians, prayer of, 106 
Sky, the notions concerning, 76 
Sky-god, the, 78 
Song in religion, 239 
Soul, journey of the, 128 
Souls, the doctrine of, 28, 70 sq.; 

beliefs concerning, 76 
Star-worship, 140 
Stone Age, the, 33 
Stonehenge, monuments of, 33 
Stones, worship of, 146 
" Sub-limital consciousness," the, 

" Suggestion " explained, 54 sq, 
Sumerians, gods of, 20, 23 
Sun-worship, 138 sq. 

Supa, a Samoan god, 223 
Superstition, a form of religion, 

Svastika, the, 119, 236 
Swan-maidens, the, 223 

Tabu, the, 32, 38, 108, 156, 222, 

Tahitians, myths of the, 147 
Tangaloa, a Polynesian deity, 

74, 75, 78, 99 
Tehuelches, myth of, 77 
Tepi, the custom of, 94 
Teutonic rites, 182, 188, 190, 

Theoleptic worshippers, 185 
Theology, its aim, 4 
"Theopathy" explained, 56 
Theophorous names, 100 
Thought, creation by, 124 
Three as sacred number, 120 
Thunder in mythology, 80, 81 
Tina, an Etruscan god, 140 
Tinne, an American tribe, 125 
Tonantzin, an Aztec deity, 145 
Tongues, the gift of, 93 
Tota, a Mexican deity, 151, 167 
Totemic animals, the, 161 ; bond, 

the, 216 
Tree of knowledge, the, 153 
Trees, worship of, 150 sq. 
Trinities of heathen religions, 

Tsuni ||Goab, a deity of the Hot- 
tentots, 75 
Tupa, a deity of the Dyaks, 123 
Turramulun, an Australian god, 

Tutelary personal deities, 192 
Tzentals, customs of, 221, 222 

Ukko, deity of Finns, 78 
Umbilical cord, rites respecting, 

Unconscious cerebration, 54 
Unity of human intelligence, 9 
Unkululu, deity of the Zulus, 



Index of Subjects 

Upanishads, teachings of the, 

Varuna, Sanscrit deity, 79 

Vase, symbolism of the, 144 

Vatea, a Polynesian deity, 75 

Veddahs, the, 26 

"Veiled gods" of Etruscans, 165 

Vesta, the goddess, 223 

Virgins of the Sun, 190 

Visual ideas, 130 

Votan, hero-god of the Tzentals, 

Vows taken at birth, 193 

Wakan, in Dakota, 60, 61 ; in 

Quichua, 61 
Waking visions, 66 
Water, worship of, 144 
Will as the source of Force, 47 

Winds, worship of the, 143 

Witches' Sabbath, the, 185 
Woman, her position in Religion, 

Word, the, in religion, 88 sq. 
World-soul, belief in a, 136 
Writing, religious origin of, 241 

Yah, a sacred interjection, 62 
Yahgans, the, 57, 80, 104, no, 

Yahve, derivations of, 62, 81 
Yetl, a sacred bird, 159 
Yoga philosophy, the, 51 
Yucatan, culture of, 24, 150 
Yurucares, tribe of, 151 

Zi, Chaldean term for spirits, 49 
Zulus, the, their beliefs, 26, 56, 

67, 147, 16S 
Zuni Indians, the, 72, 124, 125, 



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JUN aj 72